Since reaching a $5 million settlement with his accusers and sitting out for 11 games of the 2022 season, today Deshaun Watson can now participate in team meetings, meet individually with the coaches and work out at the Cleveland Brown’s facility.
While training at their facilities, he will surely face the vitriol of a public who has largely condemned Watson for his sexual misdeeds against over 60 accusers.
However, what has been far less reported is how Watson got here. To fully understand how a generational 25-year-old talent like Watson was traded to the Browns takes a short history lesson.
After trading away Watson’s best wide receiver option in DeAndre Hopkins in May 2020, Watson expressed frustration in having limited talent surrounding him and was assured by ownership that he would be involved in team decisions moving forward, however, that did not happen.
Not only did Watson feel slighted on the field, but racially insensitive comments by Texans ownership also caused Watson to sour on the team he’d just signed a long-term deal with. “Reports about Deshaun Watson’s unhappiness with @HoustonTexans are accurate,” ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported. “Sources close to the QB say he is still angry about team’s insensitivity to social justice, including hiring practices, after the franchise failed to interview Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy this past week.”
Late Texans owner Bob McNair was a huge reason for the unsettled feeling, as he was at the forefront of owners raging against Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling for racial inequality, social injustice, and against police brutality.
Watson felt severe pressure about the ramifications of speaking out against his team’s owner. He mentioned the hardships of playing for an owner who made those types of comments, especially when he compared his players’ social justice stance to “inmates” running the prison.”
“TO KEEP IT REAL WITH YOU, I FEEL LIKE WHENEVER A BLACK QUARTERBACK SPEAKS UP, THE OUTSIDE WORLD SOMETIMES DOESN’T THINK THEY’RE EDUCATED ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. SO IN REALITY THEY’RE LIKE, ‘HEY Y’ALL BLACK QUARTERBACKS ….. SHUT UP AND PLAY. Y’ALL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. “Deshaun Watson (2020)
As a Black NFL quarterback, Watson found himself at a crossroad – bite his tongue and play football, or take a stand against the organization. Shortly after making his thoughts known, Watson chose to sit out and refused to engage with any Texans-related football activities.
Calling his bluff, the Texans worked to make it right with Watson, even hiring Black head coach David Culley to appease Watson but the damage had been done.
During this period of time, according to Bleacher Report, the now Cleveland Browns QB received multiple massages at a private hotel and club for which the Houston Texans had provided him a membership.
Per the New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas, Watson said in a deposition he had some of his massage therapists sign a copy of a nondisclosure agreement that had been left in his locker by the Texans’ director of security, Brent Naccara.
According to The New York Times, Watson set up massage appointments with at least 66 women between the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2021.
In March 2021, the Texans issued a statement saying they “became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post last night” and added that “this is the first time we heard of the matter.”
However, Vrentas reported Nia Smith shared text messages from Watson on Instagram in November 2020 and said she “could really expose you” in reference to the three-time Pro Bowler after they had multiple massage sessions. Smith is among those who have filed suit, alleging he made continued sexual advances without her consent during sessions.
“I have always stood on my innocence and am going to continue to stand on that, but at the same time I have to continue to push forward on my life and my career,” Watson said in a news conference in August.
Now that he is scheduled to return to NFL action on week 12 at the Houston Texans, Watson’s name will surely be linked with past abusers and the public outcry will be deafening, however, his former team’s role in materializing the sexual assault allegations requires equal examination.