The NFL began investigating on Thursday the behavior of Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is accused in civil lawsuits of sexually assaulting three female massage therapists. The case was filed in Harris County, Texas, this week.
In a letter to Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the Houston plaintiffs representing all three women, Lisa Friel, a special attorney for investigations at the league, asked for the cooperation of the defendants. Buzbee posted the letter to Instagram. A league spokesman said the matter was being investigated in connection with the NFL’s policy on personal conduct. This policy determines off-field behavior in which players and coaches are involved.
The Texans said in a statement on Thursday that they “will continue to take this and all matters involved in the Houston Texans organization seriously” and that the team will not comment further until the league’s investigation is completed. . The NFL often takes months to complete its investigations, which include interviews with defendants and NFL employees, as well as law enforcement officials.
Buzbee said earlier on Thursday on Instagram that a total of nine women had come forward with accusations against Watson, who had not spoken publicly about the allegations since he posted a statement on Twitter on Tuesday night after the first charge was filed against him. . . Watson said he “never treated a woman with anything other than the utmost respect” and that he rejected an unfounded six-figure settlement requirement from Buzbee before the first lawsuit was filed.
The third charge, filed Wednesday night, is consistent with the descriptions of conduct filed in the other two charges against Watson. Watson, 25, is said to have put the woman under pressure to have oral sex during a massage on Dec. 28 in an office building in Houston.
Watson, who contacted the woman via an instant message on Instagram, began aggressively prescribing how she should massage him, said the complaint and told her to work on his thigh muscle, inner thighs and ‘inner gluten’. Watson then instructed her to move her hand over his genitals, rang the complaint, and pressed her mouth to his penis. According to the complaint, the woman was so shaken that she darkened for a few minutes. Watson got dressed and left without apologizing, the complaint reads.
Watson has hired Rusty Hardin, a prominent Houston-based defense attorney. Hardin defended other well-known athletes in the area, including Roger Clemens and James Harden. In a telephone interview, Hardin declined to discuss the matter and said he was still learning the details.
After the league completes the investigation, Watson could be fined or suspended if he is found to have violated the league’s policy on personal conduct. He can appeal against any fines.
In 2014, the league hired its own professional investigators, including Friel, a former New York City prosecutor, to review allegations of misconduct off the field, particularly related to sexual assault and domestic violence. Previously, the league usually relied on law enforcement agencies and decisions in the courts to decide whether someone should be punished.
Ken Belson reported.