Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended by the National Football League for six games Monday, but not fined, over allegations that he has sexually harassed more than 24 massage therapists over several years.
Disciplinary officer Sue Robinson, who was appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, found Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy by allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions between March 2020 and March 2021, ESPN first reported, citing an anonymous source.
Watson, who settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits brought against him from women accusing the former Houston Texans quarterback of sexual harassment and assault, agreed to settle three of the four remaining lawsuits Sunday.
In a statement released Sunday, Watson and the NFL Players Association wrote they would accept the ruling and urged the NFL to do the same, adding the process should “not be tarnished based on the whims of the league office.”
Watson, 26, is the 21st highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes estimates, making $55.6 million last year, and he will make $230 in guaranteed money from the Cleveland Browns, which signed him to a five-year deal in March.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
What We Dont Know
Whether Watson or the Cleveland Browns will appeal the suspension, or if the NFL will push for a weightier punishment. ESPN reported in May that the NFL could be pushing for a lengthy suspension upwards of a year.
According to the allegations, Watson exposed himself to women he solicited for massage sessions and touched them against their will, while he was a member of the Texans. Watson, a three-time Pro-Bowl selection, booked appointments on his own with at least 66 women, the New York Times reported, and may have been enabled by his former team. A separate lawsuit filed in June claimed the Texans knew about the misconduct and turned “a blind eye” to it. The Texans have since settled with 30 women who accused Watson of sexual harassment and assault, dismissing the suit, and leaving just one suit that hasn’t been settled against the quarterback ongoing. Watson has repeatedly denied the allegations, admitting to sexual activity, but arguing he did not coerce the women. Watson, who was benched for the entire 2021-22 season, has not played an NFL game since Jan. 3, 2021.
Deshaun Watson Settles 20 Of 24 Suits Alleging Sexual Misconduct (Forbes)
Houston Texans Settle With 30 Women Over Alleged Sexual Misconduct By Deshaun Watson (Forbes)
Houston Texans Accused In Lawsuit Of Enabling Deshaun Watson’s Sexual Misconduct (Forbes)