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Browns Did Not Reach Out to Deshaun Watson’s 22 Accusers

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

The Browns officially introduced Deshaun Watson as their 2022 quarterback Friday.

During the press conference, reporters consistently asked Watson and general manager Andrew Berry about how the organization ended up signing the quarterback despite the 22 active civil lawsuits that detail graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

One of the main questions asked regarding the active civil lawsuits was whether the Browns organization has communicated with any of the 22 women who relayed accounts of sexual misconduct by Watson. 

Berry noted that the organization’s lawyers told them not to reach directly out to the women because it would be considered interfering with the criminal investigation. All but one of the criminal investigations was wrapped up before the Browns traded for Watson.

“We were advised against reaching out directly to the 22 women, out of concern,” Berry said.

However, Berry mentioned multiple times that the background research of Watson and his cases was a ”five-month odyssey.“ The organization used private investigators and third-party legal advisers to learn more about the cases without actually speaking to the accusers. 

“We as an organization know that this transaction has been very difficult for a lot of people, particularly women in our community. ... That in addition to the nature of all the allegations weighed heavily on all of us.” Berry said.

Based on their research, the Browns were not concerned with what was found. Berry could not detail what information they discovered.

“I have confidence in the work we put in,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.

The press conference comes a day after a grand jury in Brazoria County in Texas decided not to charge the Browns’ quarterback. This is the second grand jury to come to this conclusion after the one in Harris County returned nine “no” bills on nine criminal complaints against Watson on March 11.

The civil depositions are ongoing, and they began on the same day the first 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 in Harris County.

In wake of the trade, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center received more than 1,700 donations as of Tuesday. 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 NFL’s investigation into Watson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy is still ongoing, and he could still face suspension. As the civil deposition proceedings continue, here’s a recap of what has happened on and off the field since Watson’s last snap.

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