Editor’s 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 https://www.rainn.org.
The Browns trading for Deshaun Watson was met with widespread backlash on Friday as the quarterback still faces 22 active civil lawsuits that describe graphic accounts of sexual harassment and assault.
But in wake of his trade, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has received more than a thousand donations as of Saturday evening. The Texans traded Watson and a 2024 fifth-round pick in return for a ’22 first-round pick, ’23 first-and third-round picks, and ’24 first-and fourth-round picks.
The agency released a statement in response to the trade on Saturday, saying in part, “We understand the story surrounding Deshaun Watson joining the Cleveland Browns team is triggering for far too many of our friends and neighbors. For those who need additional support, please know Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available to you 24/7/365.
“To the community we say, we see you. We hear your outrage. We feel it too. Every click. Every post and every tweet. Every donation sends a clear message.”
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center also included resources “for everyone who wants to join in the fight against sexual violence,” adding, “Together, we can create a community that is healthy, safe and strong.”
Watson has not taken a snap since January 2021 but was still paid $10.5 million in the 2021 season. A grand jury recently returned nine “no” bills on nine criminal complaints against the 26-year-old, and the prosecutor said this concluded the criminal proceedings against him in Harris County.
“I'm just going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community,” Watson said during his public remarks after hearing the grand jury decision. “And on the legal side handle what we need to handle. But also ready to get on the field, and prep for that.”
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement after the announcement was made, “Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have.”
The civil depositions are ongoing, and they began on the same day the grand jury convened. The quarterback reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment during the first two depositions, but he reportedly answered questions under oath several days after the criminal proceedings concluded.
These civil cases are unrelated to the grand jury proceedings that occurred March 11. As the civil deposition proceedings continue, here’s what has happened on and off the field since Watson’s last snap.
His new contract will be a five-year, $230 million deal that is fully guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It will set a new record for the largest guaranteed contract in league history. However, there is one addition to the contract that could have been added due to the ongoing NFL investigation.
A source told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that under Watson’s new deal, he will lose only $55,556 for every game he’s suspended. Comparatively, the quarterback’s contract with Houston had him losing $1.94 million each game he missed due to suspension.
This is because his base salary is just $1 million in 2022, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the investigation is still ongoing.
“Any transaction would have no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and comprehensive investigations of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson. Nor would it affect his status under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy.
“If the league’s investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA.”
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