Deshaun Watson’s offseason has been eventful in many ways, none of them good. With the 2021 season approaching, it’s time to realize no other sports superstar has ever been in this type of situation.
Over the course of professional and collegiate sports history, there have been plenty of scandals that have taken over the public spotlight, both on and off the field. However, none of them come close to what has been happening in Houston since the end of the 2020 season.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past few months, here’s what has been surrounding 25-year old Houston QB, Deshaun Watson. On March 16th, attorney Tony Buzbee filed the first of what would become 23 civil lawsuits against the former Clemson star, alleging sexual harassment and assault.
The lawsuits allege Watson of multiple inappropriate acts against masseuses over the last year, all of which have similar aspects but range from exposing himself during a massage all the way to grabbing their buttocks or genitalia and even trying to force oral sex on him.
The sheer number of accusations has already done enough damage to Watson’s–and Texans’–public image, and after Watson publicly admitted that at least one encounter with an accuser was deemed “consensual” it was all but solidified in the eyes of the public that some of the other accusations may not have been.
Watson has remained mostly silent during the course of the offseason, even after he was dropped by the likes of Nike, Rolex, Beats by Dre, and plenty more major brands almost immediately after the lawsuit number it double-digits. He did make a few statements through his attorney, Rusty Hardin, since the rise in accusations with one of them being that this whole predicament is a “money grab”.
For fans of the Houston Texans, this could not come at a worse time. The Texans just signed Watson to a four-year contract extension last September worth $160 million with almost $111 million in guaranteed money, making it the third-highest guaranteed money in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott.
Not only did Houston just anchor heavy money on Watson but they also just finished the 2020 season with their worst record since 2017 and were only slated to have three draft picks entering last week’s 2021 Draft. All of this came on top of the still-raw loss of All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt just two weeks before the first lawsuit.
Since the initial uproar that came in late March to early April, there has been one lawsuit dropped, a formal investigation started by the NFL, and at least one criminal complaint has been investigated by the Houston Police Department which could eventually end in charges being brought to Watson.
Every new accusation, every new lawsuit, and every new piece of the puzzle has been announced very publicly by the Plaintiff’s lawyer, and consequently by Watson’s attorney, which has made Watson the face of serial sexual assault even though the lawsuits have not been brought to trial and nothing has been proven yet.
Not only is Watson’s celebrity status and reputation tarnished but, at the moment, it would appear his starting job in Houston is also no longer his to control. This was clear when the Texans signed Tyrod Taylor on March 16th (the day the first lawsuit was filed), cementing the fact that Houston was fully prepared to not have Watson on the field from the first mention of a lawsuit.
On top of Taylor being added to the depth chart, the Texans also used their first pick in the draft, which did not come till pick #67 in the third round, on Stanford QB Davis Mills, which shows even more than Houston will not be featuring their former first-round pick on the field this season.
If the Houston Texans’ recent QB additions don’t tell the future well enough, there is also the report given by NFL Insider Adam Schefter on May 1st where he said that many people in league circles believe Watson’s career in Houston is over.
If Watson goes to trial and is found innocent of all charges, it will not matter in the end when it comes to how he is perceived by the public, and by fans of the NFL. Watson’s identity has seemingly been chosen for him before any trial date has been set, and at the moment there is no coming back from the severity of the accusations.
But if Watson is found guilty, even on only one of the charges, then he will be in unknown territory as far as professional sports athletes in boiling water go. Particularly, if he is found guilty on all charges that could eventually be brought to him, then his case will stand alone above any other NFL player or any other sports athlete who has ever been found guilty in a courtroom.
Michael Vick’s dogfighting charges in ’07 during the peak of his career was one of the biggest, most high-profile court cases that the NFL has ever had to endure and Ray Lewis’ murder charges in ’00 shook the league to its core, even though he was eventually cleared and only found guilty of a misdemeanor. Both of these cases, and essentially the players themselves, showed how even NFL players can have serious vices. But unlike Watson, neither of those players nor any player of his caliber ever showed serious patterns of behavior that mimic those of sexual predators and serial sexual attackers.
That is why Watson’s situation is worse than those that preceded him like Vick or Lewis, because if Watson’s allegations are even slightly true then they prove he shows the traits of a serial sexual predator, especially due to the way that he has admitted to finding massage therapists through mainly Instagram and not through his team (who could easily afford a private masseuse for their franchise QB). Also, he didn’t find them through any of the countless massage parlors in the greater Houston, Texas area instead.
Watson has a ways to go if he ever wants to see a field again, especially if he is brought to court; but so far, there seems to be a strong defense growing based on his attorney’s statements, saying they have already found upwards of five accusations to be inaccurate or false, and that they have numerous other massage therapists who vouch for Watson and his behavior.