NFL

Deshaun Watson accused of sexual assault in civil suits

Lawsuits accused the Texans quarterback of misconduct during massages last year. Watson said in a statement Tuesday that he had never “treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect.”

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson speaks during a news conference following a playoff game against the Chiefs on Jan. 12, 2020. AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File

Deshaun Watson, the star quarterback of the Houston Texans, has been accused of sexually assaulting two massage therapists last year, according to two civil suits filed this week in Harris County, Texas.

In the first complaint, filed late Tuesday, a woman accused Watson, 25, of accosting her and pressuring her to have sex with him during a massage at her home in Houston. The woman said Watson had responded to an advertisement for her massage services and had asked if she would be the only person home when he arrived. Watson denied the accusation in a statement posted to his Twitter account Tuesday night.

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On Wednesday, Watson was accused in a second complaint, by another woman who said that last year he pressured her to have sex with him during a massage.

According to the first complaint, on March 30, 2020, Watson went to the woman’s home and, once on the massage table wearing only a small towel, instructed the woman to focus on his groin. Watson, according to the complaint, “moved his body so he could expose himself more.”

The woman ended the massage abruptly and asked him to leave. She claimed that Watson suggested that he could ruin her reputation if she tried to ruin his by speaking publicly about the encounter.

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Watson later sent a text message to the woman to apologize, according to the complaint. She did not respond.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday night, Watson said that he “never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect” and that he looked forward to clearing his name. Watson also said that he had rejected “a baseless six-figure settlement demand” made before the accuser’s lawyer filed the suit.

The accusers seek “minimal compensatory damages,” according to the complaints. After submitting the first filing on Tuesday, Tony Buzbee, a high-profile and flamboyant plaintiffs lawyer in Houston who is representing both accusers, wrote on Instagram that the case was not about money but about “stopping behavior that should be stopped.”

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Buzbee, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Houston in 2019, did not describe the accusations against Watson in that Instagram post, but he separately told a Houston television reporter on Tuesday that “Watson went too far” with the first woman who had been giving him a massage.

According to the second complaint, Watson contacted a massage therapist in Atlanta in August and made specific requests for what he wanted in a massage. Watson agreed to pay to fly the woman to Houston, and they met at The Houstonian Hotel in a suite Watson had reserved, the complaint said.

Watson immediately disrobed, according to the complaint, and the woman asked him to cover himself. Watson became increasingly suggestive, urging the massage therapist to perform sexual acts, the complaint said, adding that she stopped the massage and Watson grabbed her. The woman left the room and went directly to the airport, according to the complaint, and Watson paid her for the massage but did not reimburse her for her flights.

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Several months later, Watson contacted the woman and said he was in Atlanta and asked if she was available, according to the complaint. She did not respond.

The Texans said in a statement that they became aware of a lawsuit involving Watson through social media Tuesday night. “This is the first time we heard of the matter, and we hope to learn more soon.”

“The NFL is aware of the reports and will decline further comment at this time,” Brian McCarthy, a league spokesperson, said Wednesday.

Watson is one of the league’s best and most recognizable players, who during a 2020 offseason of social and political turmoil called for racial justice in a player-led video that urged the NFL to support players’ protests. In early June last year, about a week after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, Watson marched with the family of Floyd — who grew up in Houston — to protest police brutality.

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The sexual assault accusations come as Watson faces an uncertain future in Houston. In September, he signed a four-year extension to stretch his contract through 2025, but he has now requested a trade, vowing never to play for the Texans again. The team went 4-12 in 2020, with Watson throwing for the most yardage and touchdown passes of his career, even as the franchise replaced its head coach and general manager and cut ties with popular players.

Texans executives stressed in January that they had no intention of dealing Watson, who, with a no-trade clause, can influence where he next plays. But though David Culley, who was hired as the Texans’ coach this offseason, told reporters in Houston last Thursday that the Texans were “very committed” to Watson, he also said during a March 11 podcast interview that Watson is “our starting quarterback as of right now,” suggesting his status with the team might change.

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On Tuesday, the Texans prepared for that possibility, if not likelihood, by agreeing to sign veteran free-agent quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

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