HOUSTON — As Deshaun Watson opens the next chapter of his career against his old team at NRG Stadium on Sunday, the former Texans quarterback will also be reminded of his embattled past.
Now with the Cleveland Browns, Watson will make his first appearance in a regular-season game since Jan. 3, 2021, after serving an 11-game suspension by the NFL.
Editor's note: The video in this story is from August.
About 10 of the women who accused Watson of sexual misconduct during massages will be at Sunday's game between the Texans and Browns. The women will be in a suite with their lawyer, Tony Buzbee.
They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter. I was proud of them for that," Buzbee said in a statement. "I think it’s important to note each of these women is different. You can’t paint them with a broad brush. I would never encourage any of them to attend. Some never want to hear Watson’s name again. Others have put it in the past. Some are still angry. Others are defiant. Makes me proud they want to stand up and be counted rather than quietly go away. Good on them!"
The women declined to comment ahead of Sunday's game, he said.
Deshaun Watson allegations
Watson was still with the Texans when more than 20 women alleged he exposed himself, touched them or kissed them against their will during massage therapy sessions. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
Ultimately, 25 women represented by Buzbee filed lawsuits. One woman dropped her lawsuit while 23 others settled their cases in August.
Another woman represented by Buzbee declined to settle and he expects the case will go to trial.
In July, 30 women who had accused the Texans of turning a blind eye to allegations against their former star quarterback settled their legal claims against the team.
"In the wake of overwhelming evidence of a pattern of abuse, Deshaun Watson will take the field this Sunday as one of the highest-paid athletes in the NFL and with no longstanding financial or professional consequences for his behavior," the Houston Area Women's Center said in a statement. "On the contrary, his victims will suffer life-long consequences to their physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being."
Watson has long denied any wrongdoing and two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges.
After being traded to the Browns and receiving a record fully guaranteed $230 million contract, an NFL investigation determined that the 27-year-old signal-caller violated the league's personal conduct policy on the following three counts
- Conduct that qualifies as a sexual assault
- Conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person
- Conduct that undermines, or puts at risk, the integrity of the NFL
Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, declined to comment on Watson’s return to Houston, citing confidentiality agreements from the settled lawsuits.