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.
HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel aired interviews Tuesday evening with two plaintiffs who filed civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson and one of the quarterback’s attorneys, and the topic of consensual encounters was addressed.
Reporter Soledad O’Brien asked Leah Graham, one of Watson’s attorneys, “Deshaun Watson has insisted that in these massages, that he was looking for nothing other than professional services, but we know he did have sex with three women, right? Oral sex with two, vaginal sex with another. So how do you explain unintentionally ending up having sex with people who are giving you professional massages?”
The attorney responded, “Well, in every massage, I will tell you he did go, intending just for a professional massage, and only those three instances where sexual conduct occurred—consensual sexual activity—it occurred after the massage session had ended. And Mr. Watson has testified and is insistent that that sexual activity was initiated by the plaintiff in every single instance.”
According to Cleveland.com, the quarterback has said during the civil depositions that after the appointments, he had consensual sex with three of the plaintiffs
The Browns quarterback is facing 22 active civil lawsuits filed by massage therapists, each detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson allegedly 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.” During his introductory press conference with the Browns, Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any woman.
Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to file a lawsuit against Watson last year, expressed her thoughts on the matter of “consensual sexual activity” during Tuesday’s episode.
“I’m not a sex worker,” Solis said. “I am a massage therapist. For them to say that anything was consensual, either they don’t realize or they don’t care about the danger that puts me in. Because that gives the message to people that massage therapists do those kind of things.”
The quarterback said during a recent pretrial deposition that one massage therapist did cry after their session, but he said he did not know why, according to USA Today. The deposition reportedly pertained to Solis’s case.
He left and later sent her an apology text after the session, which read, “Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable. Never were the intentions. Lmk if you want to work in the future. My apologies.”
Per a partial transcript obtained by USA Today, the woman’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, asked Watson, “But you know why you sent that text apology afterwards?”
“Yes, because she was teary-eyed,” the quarterback replied. “And I was trying to figure out what was going on. So, I assumed that she was uncomfortable in whatever reason. And we talked about working in the future. And so, I said, ‘We can work in the future. Just let me know.’ And then I sent my apologies as whatever reason she was teary-eyed for.”
Although the civil lawsuits are still ongoing, Cleveland traded for Watson in March and signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. Solis said in the interview that “it’s just like a big screw you. That’s what it feels like. That we don’t care. He can run and throw, and that’s what we care about.”
Kyla Hayes, another plaintiff, said during the episode that she “felt like he’s being rewarded for bad behavior.”
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center saw more than 2,300 donations come in the wake of his signing, totaling more than $125,000. They received more than 1,000 donations within the first 24 hours of the trade.
The quarterback previously faced multiple criminal complaints; however, he is not facing charges following two separate grand jury hearings. A Harris County grand jury returned nine “no” decisions on nine criminal complaints against Watson on March 11. A Harris County prosecutor said that the decision concluded criminal proceedings against him in that county, and Watson was traded shortly afterward. On March 24, a grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count.
Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, released a video statement before the interview airing, saying in part, “Nobody really wanted to deal much with the fact that two different grand juries found there were no criminal events. The grand jury decides probable cause—is there any basis for believing there was a crime committed, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor. And both of those grand juries found no probable cause to believe any crime at all was committed.
“That should have been given great sway because originally there were allegations, he used force against these women. Turns out only three of the 22 lawsuits involve any allegation of force, and then when subjected to investigation by law enforcement and presentation to a grand jury, it was found no force was used. There was no indication of a crime involving any type of force.”
As far as the league investigation, commissioner Roger Goodell revealed Tuesday that the league is “nearing the end of the investigation” into Watson. However, no timeline was provided on when a ruling would be issued by the disciplinary officer.
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