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.
Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told Cleveland.com on Friday that the quarterback is expecting to hear from the NFL in June or July. The NFL met with Watson Monday through Wednesday in Houston to question him regarding his case, and the league wants to meet with him again before making an official decision.
“We should know what their position is initially sometime in June, and then everybody will figure out if there’s going to be a hearing about it or can people work things out, or whatever,” Hardin said. “The only thing that’s certain is that they want to try to get everything done this summer — and earlier than later in the summer. Past that, we don’t really have any firm dates or possibilities.”
Watson still faces 22 active civil lawsuits concerning alleged sexual harassment and assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The lawsuits describe accounts that range from Watson refusing to cover his genitals to “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” Two depositions will take place from June 21–23 during the Browns’ six-week break between training camps.
NFL investigators Lisa Friel and Jennifer Gaffney questioned Watson this week. Once they’ve finished their investigation, they will report their findings to former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, who will then determine if Watson will be disciplined or not. Discipline options include a suspension, a fine, a combination of the two or even banishment from the NFL with an opportunity to re-apply.
But, until the decision is made, Watson is currently set to start for the Browns this season after not playing last year for the Texans. Lawyers on both sides agreed to not go to trial between Aug. 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023 so Watson can play if he is not disciplined by the league. He was traded to the Browns on March 18. During his introductory press conference, he continued to deny ever assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any of the women.
The quarterback also previously faced 10 criminal complaints; however, he is not facing charges following two separate grand jury hearings. According to Jenny Vrentas of The New York Times, those complaints described similar situations, including Watson ejaculating on the massage therapists and either other forms of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
On March 11, a Harris County grand jury declined to charge Watson on nine complaints, returning nine “no” bills. Nearly two weeks later, another grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count.
As the civil deposition proceedings continue, here’s a recap of what has happened on and off the field since Watson’s last snap.