Deshaun Watson denies sexual assault allegations, doesn't intend to settle civil suits

The former Texans quarterback was traded to the Cleveland Browns in a blockbuster deal, getting a $230M contract - all guaranteed.

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Saturday, March 26, 2022
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (KTRK) -- Just a day after a Brazoria County grand jury declined to indict Deshaun Watson on a 10th case related to allegations of sexual misconduct, the former Texans quarterback spoke at his introductory press conference with his new team, the Cleveland Browns. But the conversation quickly steered away from football.

Watson was asked pointedly by a reporter about the accusations, specifically if he planned to work with women's groups and the community.

"I have to earn that trust back, to be honest. I have to earn that trust back into the community," Watson began. "I don't want to just jump out to make it seem like I'm doing it to clear my name."

Watson described himself as a "servant leader" and said that's who he was prior to the allegations, which have led to lawsuits from 22 women.

In recent weeks, a Harris County jury did not indict Watson in all nine cases in the Houston region. Brazoria County followed suit on a 10th case on Thursday.

During the press conference to introduce Watson as the Browns new quarterback after a blockbuster deal worth $230 million, the 26-year-old was also asked if he'd be going to counseling. Watson's lawyer Rusty Hardin says the Browns were aware of the 10th case prior to the trade deal.

The women have alleged in their lawsuits that Watson exposed himself, touched them with his penis or kissed them against their will during massage appointments. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

"It's hard for me to say the counseling part because I don't have a problem. I don't have an issue. That's what I've been saying since the beginning," Watson said, adding that he's willing to talk to people to make sure he doesn't find himself in the situation again, but doubled down that he didn't have a problem.

"Like I said before, I never assaulted anyone, never disrespected anyone, I've always been respectful. That's what I've always stood on and that's who I am as a person," he continued.

The allegations stem from massages that the quarterback received starting in 2020. The first lawsuit was filed last March. A Houston police investigation began in April 2021 after a criminal complaint was filed.

Watson was questioned as well on the number of massage therapists he used and how he contacted them, which was via social media.

"I can't get too far into detail because it's an ongoing investigation, but I can say, in this day and age, especially in my age group, social media is a big business part that goes into it, so that's a factor into it," Watson said. "Hopefully, once everything is resolved, I can speak freely on it."

It was also revealed during the press conference that the Browns leadership did not contact any of the 22 women who filed lawsuits against Watson, explaining that it would have been seen as interfering with ongoing litigation.

Watson has said that he does not intend to settle the civil suits.

"My intent is to continue to clear my name as much as possible, and that's what I'm focused on," he said.

The Browns said they hired investigators to get a "full perspective" on the investigation.

"We felt good about Deshaun as a person," Browns General Manager Andrew Berry said.

Although Watson has not been charged criminally, the NFL has its own personal conduct policy and could suspend him.

In the event he's suspended without pay, Watson won't have to forfeit as much money because the Browns structured his contract with a base salary of $1.035 million - the league's minimum for a player with his service time - for next season. If he's suspended, Watson will lose $57,500 for each game he's out.

Watson's $230 million contract is fully guaranteed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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