On Tuesday morning, attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all 24 women suing Deshaun Watson, released a statement saying that the two sides had settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits.
Buzbee said the terms and the amount of the settlements are confidential. Buzbee and Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, have publicly sparred over the topic of settling for the last year, trading barbs back and forth every few months. In May 2021, Buzbee told Fox 26 that a settlement was “not happening.” So then Hardin told Fox 26 that Buzbee had actually “approached” him on “numerous occasions in the past about the possibility of a settlement.”
Sports Illustrated also reported last May that a lawyer representing Texans owner Cal McNair approached both sides to try to mediate. Both sides told Sports Illustrated that the confidentiality aspect had been a sticking point between them in their previous attempts to settle.
One issue the sides differ on is confidentiality: Hardin says Watson wants all terms of any settlement to be made public, and that all parties would be able to speak in their own defense. Buzbee, though, says, “These women have been roundly criticized. What Rusty wants is to humiliate them and make them targets of unscrupulous people. So any resolution we would want confidential, and it would also require Mr. Watson getting some counseling.”Sports Illustrated
In October of 2021, just before the NFL trade deadline, the Dolphins wanted to trade for Watson, but only if he settled all the civil lawsuits first. Pro Football Talk reported in December that 18 of the 22 plaintiffs were ready to settle at that time, but four holdouts prevented the trade. The 23rd lawsuit, filed on May 31, included a footnote that alleged that Watson attempted to settle with each woman for $100,000, “but not all would accept that amount, due to the aggressive nondisclosure agreement that Watson’s team proposed.”
The pressure on Watson intensified in the last month, with the NFL reportedly arguing for a “significant” suspension, Hardin shooting himself in the foot on Houston sports radio, and two new lawsuits filed against him.
Last week, Watson spoke to reporters at Browns mini-camp. In two press conferences this year, he’s been adamant that he’s done nothing wrong. When a reporter asked if he was open to settling the cases, he said, “I just want to clear my name and be able to let the facts and the legal procedures continue to play out. Right now, all I am doing is wanting to clear my name and be able to let all of the facts come out in the court of law.”
Last week, Buzbee told Houston outlet KPRC2 that he was getting ready to file two more civil lawsuits against Watson. He did not address those two women in his Tuesday statement, and those lawsuits have not yet been filed to the Harris County district court.
Buzbee said that one of the four cases that has not settled belongs to the first plaintiff, Ashley Solis. She was the first to file a lawsuit against Watson, and also the first to speak publicly, when she appeared to tell her story at a press conference at Buzbee’s offices last April. Solis also told her story on HBO’s Real Sports in May of this year.
The NFL’s decision on Watson’s suspension is expected in the next month, before training camp starts. After the settlement news broke, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement: “Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”