Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson reached confidential settlements with all but four of the 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct and assault in civil suits filed over the past year.
Watson faced his first sexual misconduct allegations in the spring of 2021, while he was still a member of the Houston Texans. In the past year, more than 20 additional women have come forward with detailed accusations of the NFL star committing sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
After he avoided being charged by a grand jury on 10 criminal complaints of sexual misconduct, Watson and attorney Rusty Hardin turned their attention toward the pending civil suits. The Browns’ quarterback has faced additional accusations in recent weeks, bringing the total to 26 lawsuits.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing Watson’s accusers, announced Tuesday that all but four of the woman have reached a settlement with Watson. As a result, those civil suits will be dropped immediately.
Watson, who originally wanted to take the stand to defend himself in court, will now avoid a year-plus of litigation. Both sides had agreed to table any legal proceedings from Aug. 1 through the end of the 2022 NFL season, if settlements weren’t reached.
Ashley Solis, the first woman to come forward with a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct by Watson, did not settle. She, along with three other women, intends to move forward with the legal proceedings.
- Deshaun Watson contract: $1.035 base salary (2022), $46 million base salary (2023-’26)
The NFL is expected to tentatively announce its suspension for Watson before training camp in July. However, the new collective bargaining agreement allows for Watson to go before a third-party judge who will then make a ruling on whether or not he violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
Impact of settlements on a Deshaun Watson suspension
Before Deshaun Watson agreed to confidential settlements with his accusers, the NFL was already nearing the end of its investigation. League officials already spoke to the Browns’ quarterback multiple times and interviewed many of his accusers over the past year.
For the 26-year-old, this step eliminates a massive hurdle in the legal process that would have consumed significant time and attention in the weeks ahead and beyond. While the settlements do offer him some protection from his accusers coming forward with more details, it also doesn’t clear him from a
The NFL is reportedly wanting to push for a one-year ban, viewing this as a pivotal moment for the league’s image. If it hits Watson with a short suspension, there will be significant criticism and it would set a bad precedent for what the NFL will tolerate from star players.
Any suspension commissioner Roger Goodell proposes based on the league’s finding will be reviewed by a former U.S. District Court who serves as the neutral arbitrator for a review process. The judge, who is picked by the NFL and NFL Players Association, then determines if a suspension is warranted.
If the neutral arbitrator determines there is enough evidence implicating Watson, they will then hand down a suspension. At that point, Goodell can then step in to add additional games onto the ban.