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Deshaun Watson Timeline: What Has Happened Since First Lawsuit Filed

Editors’ note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at

Ashley Solis filed the first lawsuit against Deshaun Watson in March 2021, and now 17 months later, the NFL and players association finalized a settlement agreement for the Browns’ quarterback to be suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million.

Less than two months later, the quarterback faced a new lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct during a massage, and on Dec. 4, he returned to the field and played his first regular season game in a Browns’ jersey after fulfilling his suspension. 

The 26-year-old has faced extensive legal troubles throughout the last year-plus—more than two dozen lawsuits, each detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” The latest suit said that Watson masturbated and ejaculated on the plaintiff without her consent.

On June 21, Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the 24 plaintiffs, announced that 20 of the 24 suits had been settled against Watson. Four lawsuits remained active, including Solis’s filing. He then reportedly agreed to settle three of the remaining four civil suits filed against him ahead of Sue L. Robinson’s disciplinary decision in August.

Watson is no longer facing criminal charges following two separate grand jury hearings. A Harris County grand jury returned “no” decisions on nine criminal complaints against Watson in March, and a county prosecutor said that the decision concluded criminal proceedings against him in that county. On March 24, another grand jury declined to charge Watson on a 10th complaint.

The quarterback has denied any wrongdoing, referring to the lawsuits as a “money grab.” Even in the wake of his suspension, he maintained his innocence, only “apologizing for everyone that was affected [by] this situation.” The Browns’ owners said they would trade for him again.

“I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said that I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone and I will continue to stand on that,” Watson said. “But at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career and, for us to be able to move forward, I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side. I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward and I’ve always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone.”

Here is what has happened on and off the field since Watson's last regular-season NFL game.

Real-World Timeline

  • May 31, 2022: A 23rd civil lawsuit is filed against Watson. According to the documents, HBO’s segment on the quarterback, including Watson’s comment about having “no regrets,” changed the plaintiff’s mind about suing.
  • May 31, 2022: Hardin responds to the 23rd lawsuit, saying that “Watson vehemently denies the allegations, just as he has since she first discussed them with members of our firm in March of last year.”
  • June 1, 2022: Buzbee tells the Associated Press via text message that he will be “filing a 24th case soon.”
  • June 2, 2022: Within the 23rd suit, a footnote claims that last year before cases were filed, Watson offered each plaintiff $100,000, along with an “aggressive nondisclosure agreement.”
  • June 3, 2022: Hardin and Graham appear on an episode of the Audacy podcast Payne & Pendergast and reveal that Watson’s meetings with the league’s investigative team have concluded.
  • June 6, 2022: A 24th lawsuit is filed against Watson, marking the second suit in the span of a week.
  • June 6, 2022: Rusty Hardin releases a statement saying in part, “Our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today.”
  • June 7, 2022: The New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas reports that Watson booked massage therapy sessions with at least 66 women over the span of 17 months. The report also finds that a Houston-based spa and the Texans “enabled” his massage habit and that the franchise provided facilities and nondisclosure agreements for his sessions. It also found that the quarterback’s lawyer and the prosecutors at the district attorney’s office on the criminal cases had extensive contact leading up to the two grand juries. According to Vrentas, Hardin “began a regular dialogue” with the Harris County sex crimes prosecutor Johna Stallings in early 2022.
  • June 7, 2022: Buzbee responds to The Times’ claim that Watson’s lawyers were in contact with the district attorney’s office. Buzbee says while he also contacted the DA’s office, the office ”wouldn’t even talk to us!”
  • June 7, 2022: Watson seemingly replies to The Times’ article in an Instagram story posted Tuesday, quoting the song “Rich Off Pain.”
  • June 8, 2022: Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is asked in a press conference about Watson and says he’s “going to be respectful of the investigation, of the legal proceedings. I’m going to let that play out.”
  • June 8, 2022: It is reported that June 30 is an important date for the Watson cases. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, it is the deadline for pretrial discovery in the 24 active civil lawsuits the quarterback is facing.
  • June 8, 2022: Buzbee releases a statement that his law firm plans to add the Texans and “others” as defendants to the ongoing civil lawsuits, saying they “believe the Texans organization was well aware of Watson’s issues, but failed to act.”
  • June 13, 2022: It is reported that Buzbee is in the process of filing two more lawsuits against Watson, which would make the number of active civil suits against the quarterback 26. 
  • June 14, 2022: The quarterback meets with the press and fields questions regarding the lawsuits, including why he should be believed over the plaintiffs and if he had any regrets. He was also asked if he was willing to settle the lawsuits, to which he responded, “I just want to clear my name and let the facts and the legal procedures continue to play out.”
  • June 14, 2022: Buzbee responds to Watson’s press conference and says he had hoped Watson would show “some regret or remorse” for his behavior.
  • June 16, 2022: It is reported that the NFL Players Association is preparing for an “unprecedented” punishment for Watson and that they will “mobilize with an aggressive defense on Watson’s behalf.” The defense will reportedly include comparisons to the league’s handling of the cases of three prominent team owners—the Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, Patriots’ Robert Kraft and Cowboys’ Jerry Jones
  • June 17, 2022: The NFL is reportedly looking to argue that Watson should receive a “significant” suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
  • June 21, 2022: Watson reaches settlements in 20 of the 24 lawsuits against him, The Times’ Vrentas reports. Solis, the first plaintiff to file against Watson, was not one of the women who settled their cases. The MMQB’s Breer reports that he expects a decision from the NFL before training camp, which is scheduled to begin in mid to late July. 
  • June 27, 2022: It is reported that settlement talks between the NFL and Watson’s camp collapsed after the league allegedly pushed for a year-long suspension.
  • June 27, 2022: One of the Watson plaintiffs files a lawsuit against the Texans, saying that the organization enabled the quarterback’s behavior during massage therapy sessions.
  • June 28, 2022: The three-day disciplinary hearing with U.S District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson begins.
  • July 15, 2022: Buzbee announces that all of the women who made or planned to make claims against the Houston franchise for its role in the Watson allegations have resolved their claims.
  • July 22, 2022: Watson reports to Browns training camp while awaiting Robinson’s ruling.
  • July 27, 2022: Stefanski says that if Watson is unavailable, the team will start QB Jacoby Brissett.
  • July 31, 2022: The NFLPA and Watson release a joint statement ahead of Robinson’s ruling, and call for the NFL to “stand by her ruling” regardless of her decision.
  • Aug. 1, 2022: Ahead of Robinson’s ruling, Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr that the Browns quarterback has agreed to settle three of the four remaining civil lawsuits filed against him.
  • Aug. 1, 2022: Robinson rules the quarterback should be suspended for six games in 2022. Her ruling contains language that mandates Watson to only receive massage therapy from Browns therapists, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The NFL and Cleveland owners release statements in the wake of the announcement.
  • Aug. 3, 2022: Two days after Robinson’s ruling, the NFL decides to appeal her decision and seek a longer suspension. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the league will seek an indefinite suspension and ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported that a source told him “the NFL’s appeal will also include a monetary fine.”
  • Aug, 4, 2022: Goodell decides he will not hear the appeal process and appoints former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, who also serves on the NFL’s diversity advisory committee and consulted on the league’s discipline of Ezekiel Elliott in 2017.
  • Aug. 4, 2022: Buzbee holds a press conference with plaintiffs and calls out Goodell and the league for its handling of the case.
  • Aug. 9, 2022: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam says they will “respect and honor the process” of the final ruling.
  • Aug. 9, 2022: Goodell describes Watson’s behavior as “egregious” and “predatory.”
  • Aug. 11, 2022: The Associated Press reports the quarterback is willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a heavy fine.
  • Aug. 12, 2022: Watson plays in his first NFL game since the 2020 season and apologizes “to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation” prior to a preseason game against Jacksonville.
  • Aug. 18, 2022: The NFL and players association finalize a settlement agreement in Watson’s disciplinary process—an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine. Additionally, he will “undergo a professional evaluation by behavioral experts and will follow their treatment program,” and his reinstatement reportedly has a contingency aspect. The NFL, Browns owners and Watson release statements on the matter, and the quarterback pens a broad apology “for any pain this situation has caused” and takes “accountability for the decisions I made.” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam expressed that he feels the quarterback “deserves a second chance,” and in a separate press conference, Watson maintained his innocence
  • Oct. 13, 2022: A new lawsuit was filed against Watson in Harris County by a licensed massage therapist. According to the filing, “Watson attempted to solicit sexually related acts with Plaintiff including intercourse.” Buzbee and his law firm were not listed as the attorneys for the plaintiff, Jane Doe.  
  • Dec. 4, 2022: Watson fulfilled his 11-game suspension and played his first regular season game in a Browns’ jersey. Boos echoed in Texas’s NRG Stadium before the quarterback took his first snap, and he ended the day completing 12-of-22 passes for 131 yards with one interception and zero touchdowns.   

When Did the Alleged Incidents Occur?

The civil lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson cite events dating back to March 30, 2020, and as recent as March 5, 2021, with sessions taking place in multiple states and venues.

Tony Buzbee, the plaintiffs’ attorney, also revealed during a press conference on March 19, 2021, that a Texans trainer referred Watson to one of the women he is representing, and Watson’s personal quarterback coach connected him with another one of the women.

Here is a timeline of the incidents alleged, and their locations, in the 23 lawsuits:

More Deshaun Watson Coverage: