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 https://www.rainn.org.
Deshaun Watson’s hearing with U.S District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, will continue Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
It’s possible that the hearing could continue past Wednesday, per Graziano.
Watson met with Robinson for the first time on Tuesday, after settlement talks between the NFL and the players association collapsed when the league insisted on a full-year suspension for Watson, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer. The NFLPA argued for a lighter punishment, pointing to a precedent set in cases involving three of the league’s owners—the Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, Patriots’ Robert Kraft and Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
Robinson is expected to take arguments from Watson, the league and the union during the hearing. According to Breer, the NFL will present the cases of five women at the hearing, four of whom have already spoken with Robinson.
As of Wednesday, there is no set timeline for Robinson to make a decision. Once she rules, Watson will have the option to appeal. At that point, commissioner Roger Goodell will either make a final decision or call upon an independent ruler, according to Graziano.
Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits at one point, 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.” The latest detailed that Watson masturbated and ejaculated on the plaintiff without her consent.
Shortly after the Harris County grand jury concluded, Cleveland traded for Watson and signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. A clause built into the contract mandates Watson will lose only $55,556 for every game he’s suspended this season.
Last week, Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, announced that Watson agreed to settle 20 of the 24 lawsuits. He said that the terms and amounts agreed to are confidential and “we won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”
“Today, I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” Buzbee said in a statement last week. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. “Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed.”
In the wake of the settlement news, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the “development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”
Ashley Solis, who filed the first civil lawsuit against Watson in March 2021, was not one of the 20 women whose cases were settled. Another one of the women, whose lawsuit against Watson was not settled, filed a civil suit against the Texans Monday, alleging that the organization enabled the quarterback’s behavior during massage therapy sessions.
“Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning,” Buzbee said in a statement. “We believe that the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct. Beyond that, we think the filing speaks for itself.”
More Deshaun Watson Coverage:
- Understanding How Watson and 22 Women Arrived Here
- The Problems With the NFL’s Deshaun Watson Investigation
- A Massage Therapist on Her Session With Deshaun Watson
- NFL Needs to Bench Deshaun Watson After Latest Details Emerge
- When Deshaun Watson Says He ’Never Disrespected’ a Woman, Do the Cleveland Browns Believe Him?