Embattled NFL superstar Deshaun Watson has reached a confidential settlement with 20 of the two dozen masseuses who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
The quarterback, who the Cleveland Browns signed to an unprecedented $230 million guaranteed contract earlier this year, is awaiting word from the league about likely disciplinary action. Although two Texas grand juries declined to indict him, per The New York Times, Watson is expected to be suspended for as long as the entire upcoming season. Watson sat out all of 2021 amid an unrelated dispute with the Houston Texans, according to CBS Sports.
“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”
𝗗𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗟𝗢𝗣𝗜𝗡𝗚: Browns QB Deshaun Watson settles 20 of 24 lawsuits alleging sexual misconducthttps://t.co/13S6veScmJ pic.twitter.com/6O7z1bAKXS
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) June 21, 2022
The women all claimed that Watson forced himself on them after paying for their massage services. The New York Times reported that there are as many as 40 more women Watson hired for massages, but it is not known if any of them intend to sue or file criminal complaints.
Watson, 26, was scheduled for depositions this week, but those have been canceled. The 2017 first-round pick of the Texans out of Clemson has been an elite-level quarterback, but the sex scandal continues to cast a cloud over him. The Browns were one of at least three teams that sought to acquire him from the Texans, eventually giving up three first-round picks and more, despite knowing they may be without his services for an indefinite period.
The NFL conducted its own investigation, and any punishment it metes out under its personal conduct policy would not be dictated by civil or criminal cases.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, declined comment Tuesday when contacted by USA Today.
One of the plaintiffs electing not to settle is Ashley Solis, who was the first masseuse to sue Watson.
“The cases against Deshaun Watson started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman,” USA Today quoted Buzbee, who still represents Solis. “As a result of Ashley’s lone but brave voice, soon many women who had allegedly experienced the same conduct were emboldened to step forward.”
In 2020, the last season in which he played, Watson led the NFL with 4,823 yards passing and threw 33 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions.
Although the signing drew sharp criticism, many Cleveland Browns fans believe Watson could be the missing piece that carries the organization to the playoffs or even to what would be its first-ever Super Bowl appearance.