HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans had been told their former quarterback Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted and harassed women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “was blind eye” to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit against the team was filed in Houston by one of 24 women who had previously sued Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct when he played for the Texans. Last week, women’s lawyer Tony Buzbee announced that 20 of the 24 lawsuits have been settled.
Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. Watson faces NFL discipline over the allegations. He will hold a hearing this week with NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who will decide whether the 26-year-old has violated the league’s personal conduct policy. Robinson is expected to reign for the Browns open training camp late next month.
In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing themselves, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments. One woman claimed Watson forced her to have oral sex.
The lawsuit against the Texans accuses the team and some of its associates of having been informed or aware of Watson’s troubling behavior. Joni Honn, the owner of a massage company contracted to the Texans, told police investigators that her therapists were aware of Watson’s “known tendency to push boundaries during massage sessions,” according to the lawsuit.
Honn told the Texans, including the team’s head coach, that Watson reached out to random women on Instagram for massages in early 2020, according to the lawsuit.
Magen Weisheit, another massage therapist who worked with the Texans, told Houston police investigators that she and others were well aware of Watson’s behavior during massage sessions. When Weisheit learned of the charges against Watson by a woman who filed the first lawsuit against him, she texted the woman’s former colleague that she could contact the team’s player staff member, but “they don’t do much about the situation,” the lawsuit said.
“Despite being aware of what can only be described as disturbing behavior, the Houston Texans have turned a blind eye. Worse, the Houston Texans organization allowed Watson’s blatant behavior. The Texans also protected and protected Watson — for Watson’s own protection and the protection of the organization itself,” the lawsuit said.
The woman’s lawsuit alleges that the Texans provided Watson with several resources, including rooms at a Houston hotel, massage tables, and a nondisclosure agreement the women were required to sign that allowed the quarterback “to further his misconduct with women by turning the massage sessions into something sexual.”
The Texans are also accused of having their chief of security remove from the internet a November 2020 Instagram video in which a woman exposed her alleged wrongdoing by Watson during massage sessions.
In a statement, the Houston Texans did not specifically address the various allegations against the team.
“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization,” the Texans said.
Buzbee said the lawsuit against the Texans was the first of many he plans to bring against the team.
Suffice it to say that the overwhelming evidence that has been accumulated indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans were aware or should have known for sure about Watson’s behavior,” Buzbee said in a statement.
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit against the Texans.
“I never attacked anyone,” Watson said on June 14 in his first public remarks since being introduced by the Browns in March. “I have never harassed or disrespected anyone. I have never forced anyone to do anything.”
In March, two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges arose from the charges.
Houston Police Department detective Kamesha Baker, the lead investigator in the criminal investigation, told Buzbee in a statement that she believed Watson had committed crimes in the 10 criminal charges filed against the quarterback. Baker also said Watson’s behavior during the massage sessions escalated to the point where she believed he was committing even more serious crimes, the lawsuit said.
After the grand juries declined to press charges, several teams pursued Watson, who agreed to be traded to the Browns. Cleveland signed the three-time Pro Bowler in March to a $230 million five-year contract.
The four lawsuits pending against Watson could still go to trial, but that would not happen until 2023 at the earliest.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Tampa, Florida, and AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl en https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
JOIN THE CALL
Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. De Ster does not endorse these opinions.