A total of seven civil lawsuits have been filed against Deshaun Watson accusing the Texans quarterback of various incidents of sexual misconduct against massage therapists.
Houston attorney Tony Buzbee filed the first three lawsuits on March 16 and 17 related to separate incidents involving accusations from multiple massage therapists. Buzbee wrote in one of the lawsuits that Watson’s behavior is part of a “disturbing pattern of preying on vulnerable women,” per ESPN’s Sarah Barshop.
Four more lawsuits were filed March 19. Buzbee has said there are nine lawsuits in total, all filed by separate women who accuse Watson of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate touching to, in one instance, a forced act of oral sex.
Here is what we know so far about those lawsuits and how Watson and the NFL have responded to the accusations.
What to know about lawsuits against Deshaun Watson
Lawsuits 1 and 2
The first two lawsuits were filed by Buzbee in Harris County, Texas. The first lawsuit stems from an incident that allegedly occurred at a massage therapist’s home in March 2020, and the second lawsuit stems from an incident that allegedly took place at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa in August 2020. The plaintiffs in both of those lawsuits are female massage therapists who filed as Jane Doe.
Both lawsuits allege that Watson committed civil assault by exposing himself and touching the plaintiffs with his penis. Both lawsuits also say the plaintiffs grew “uncomfortable” during the massages, and the women abruptly ended their sessions after Watson acted inappropriately. They did not respond to any additional attempts at communication from Watson, who initially set up the meetings via Instagram direct messages.
“It became apparent that Watson wanted a massage for only one reason — sex,” the first lawsuit states.
Watson allegedly told the plaintiff involved in the March 2020 incident: “I know you have a career and a reputation, and I know you would hate for someone to mess with yours, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.” She considered Watson’s remark to be a threat, per the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages in order to “prevent Watson from further like conduct.”
The third lawsuit stems from an incident that allegedly occurred at a Houston office building in December 2020. The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed as Jane Doe.
While the third lawsuit alleges a similar pattern of behavior toward the massage therapist, it also says Watson “got more aggressive, forcefully telling her to move her hand down to his pubic area.” The lawsuit claims Watson forced the woman, who felt “intimidated and threatened,” to perform oral sex on him and that she “did not consent.”
“Plaintiff wishes she could have been more courageous and would have ended the massage,” the lawsuit states. “But she felt helpless in the moment. Plaintiff was under Watson’s control.”
Four more civil lawsuits were filed against Watson on March 19, bringing the total to seven. Three of the four lawsuits allege Watson made inappropriate contact with women during massage sessions, per Barshop. The fourth said Watson tried to kiss a woman against her will.
Who is Tony Buzbee?
Buzbee is Houston-based lawyer of The Buzbee Law Firm. He is a former Marine officer and attended the law school at the University of Houston Law Center, according to his bio on The Buzbee Law Firm site. He has represented a number of high-profile clients, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
He has also previously run for public office, most recently launching an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Houston in 2019 against incumbent Sylvester Turner.
In an Instagram post shared from his verified account on March 18, Buzbee said that the Buzbee Law Firm has been hired by nine women to bring cases against Watson, though only three had been filed at that time.
“The allegations are similar. We have filed three, and, as we complete our due diligence, will file the remaining ones in due course,” the post read. “We are talking to several others. [Buzbee’s associate] Cornelia [Brandfield-Harvey] and I appreciate the kind words, and outpouring of support for these brave women who are wiling to come forward and be heard.
“No matter what you do in life, there will always be detractors. As my dad always said: ‘If you are right, go ahead!’ And so we go.”
What has Deshaun Watson said?
Watson posted the following statement to Twitter on March 16:
As a result of a social media post by a publicity-seeking plaintiff’s lawyer, I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me. I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this isn’t about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn’t about money for me — it’s about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.
Houston-based attorney Rusty Hardin told ESPN that he spoke with Watson on March 17 and has agreed to represent him.
“I’m real comfortable with the kind of person that Deshaun Watson is, and I don’t like to publicly comment until I get all the facts,” Hardin said, adding that Watson “has a great reputation here in the Houston area, and the allegations are really inconsistent with the kind of person he is.”
Watson’s agent, David Mulugheta, shared his thoughts on the lawsuits in a tweet posted on March 19:
Sexual assault is real. Victims should be heard, offenders prosecuted.
Individuals fabricate stories in pursuit of financial gain often. Their victims should be heard, and those offenders also prosecuted.
I simply hope we keep this same energy with the truth.
— David Mulugheta (@DavidMulugheta) March 19, 2021
Are the Texans, NFL investigating Deshaun Watson?
The Texans released the following statement on March 17:
We became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post last night. This is the first time we heard of the matter, and we hope to learn more soon. We take accusations of this nature that involve anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously. We will await further information before making any additional statements on this incident.
Pro Football Talk reported March 19 that Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, wrote Buzbee a letter telling him the league has begun an investigation. She requested that Buzbee and his clients cooperate with it.
Buzbee posted, then deleted, and then reposted the letter on his Instagram page. He eventually wrote that his side “will cooperate with the NFL’s investigation and with any other investigative authorities.”
An anonymous league official told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the league is investigating Watson under its personal conduct policy. The Texans said in a second statement on March 19 (per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle) that they would “stay in close contact” with the league during the investigation.