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Media Meltdowns

NFL Reporter Who Compared Women Suing Deshaun Watson To Terrorists No Longer Working For Houston Chronicle

The front of the Houston Chronicle building at night
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Football writer Aaron Wilson is no longer with the Houston Chronicle after he went on a Boston sports radio show and compared the women suing Deshaun Watson to terrorists, multiple sources told Defector on Friday.

The radio appearance was on The Greg Hill Show on WEEI on March 19. During the appearance, Wilson called the lawsuits “a money grab” and “ambulance chasing.” At one point during the conversation, when talking about the Watson case, he said, “In his case, you know, it’s kind of you don’t negotiate with terrorists. People are demanding money, they’re asking for money. It kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. You’re talking about more and more funds, I’m not going to say how much it got to, but my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know just that this was, you know, just a money grab.”

Last month, Wilson published a lengthy feature about Watson in which friends and associates of the Texans quarterback—currently being sued by 22 women in civil court who all say he hired them for massage therapy, then sexually assaulted them during the visit—said they couldn’t believe the allegations in the lawsuits.

A source told Defector that at 5:30 p.m. on Friday members of the sports department received a Zoom invite email titled, “Sports staff meeting.” During the meeting, which lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, the source says that Chronicle sports editor Reid Laymance told staffers that Wilson was no longer employed by the Chronicle. Laymance didn’t discuss any specifics regarding why Wilson was no longer employed, and he did not mention Wilson’s coverage of the lawsuits. He did tell reporters that they needed to be mindful of what they say on other platforms.  

Laymance was reiterating a message that had been delivered to the staff two hours earlier by the Chronicle’s executive editor, Steve Riley. An email from Riley was sent to the entire newsroom with the subject “Editor’s Note.” In the email, Riley wrote about newsroom ethics and proper behavior how they should be exercised with regards to the Watson case. “The sexual assault allegations against Deshaun Watson bring those standards front and center,” Riley wrote. “This note serves as a reminder that as we report, analyze and describe those allegations, those who bring them and the person they are brought against, we must approach the story with fairness and care toward all involved. Given the frequency of content we are creating, on a growing number of print and digital channels, our editors must also be more vigilant with our oversight of coverage on all platforms.”

The email went on to remind staffers that they always represent the Chronicle during any media appearances, and must do so with the permission of a supervisor.

“Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary,” Riley wrote, before closing by saying questions would be taken at a staff meeting. The email never mentions Wilson but multiple sources told Defector that they believed it was about Wilson, and specifically his radio appearance.

Defector reached out to Wilson via Twitter, phone, and Instagram but didn’t receive a response. Defector also emailed Riley and Laymance for comment, but did not receive a response.