Massage Therapist Tells Sports Illustrated About Incident With Deshaun Watson; Three More Lawsuits Filed
3:05 PM EDT on March 30, 2021
On Monday afternoon, Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas reported the anonymous account of a massage therapist who worked with Deshaun Watson in the fall of 2019. Mary, a pseudonym, owns her own business in Houston. She is not currently suing Watson and is not represented by Tony Buzbee, the attorney who is representing the 19 other women who have filed lawsuits against Watson. Mary’s allegations are the first to be publicly reported in a forum other than a civil lawsuit.
Vrentas verified Mary’s story by interviewing a family member she confided in immediately after her session with Watson, and by viewing her text messages and social media messages. Mary told Vrentas that Watson did not touch her or force her into performing any sexual acts, but she says he "did engage in behavior that was both inappropriate and unlike any other interaction she’s had with any of her more than 1,000 clients—including other professional athletes.”
Mary’s account mirrors the detailed pattern alleged in the 19 civil lawsuits, and it predates them all. The earliest account alleged in any of the civil lawsuits occurred in March of 2020. Mary says she worked with Watson in the fall of 2019.
Mary says she was told that Watson preferred to cover himself with a towel rather than the standard sheets (in all of the lawsuits, Watson either used a small towel that only covered his groin, got naked and refused to cover himself at all, or removed his towel and exposed himself to the plaintiff during the appointment). Mary says Watson asked to use a private entrance (seven of the lawsuits allege that prior to arriving for his appointment, Watson asked the women if anyone else would be there at the location or asked if the location was private) and that Watson requested that she work on his “inner thighs and abdomen” (all of the lawsuits allege that Watson requested the women to focus on his groin, glutes, inner thighs or buttocks, in an attempt to guide the women closer to his penis).
Forty-five minutes into the appointment, Mary says Watson tossed the towel covering his groin onto the floor, saying it was too itchy, and laid totally naked on his back. Watson then developed an erection, and began “thrusting the air.” Watson then told Mary she could move his penis if she needed to, which she took as a suggestion to touch his exposed penis. From SI:
Watson stayed on his back for the entire session. While massaging his abdomen, Mary says she noticed “different fluids on his stomach.” She remembers questioning whether it was really pre-ejaculate, telling herself, This can’t be what I think it is. In the final five to 10 minutes of the session, Mary says Watson began thrusting his pelvis in the air again, this time much faster. “At that point, I recognized it for what it was,” Mary says. She says she told him he needed to “calm down.” He stopped, the session ended and she left the room to let him get dressed. When she returned, he gave her a hug. Because of his request to use the back entrance, she then had to walk him out of the building.Sports Illustrated
Mary told SI she is speaking out in part because of Watson’s blanket denial that he issued before reading any of the women’s claims and before any of the lawsuits were made public. “I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything but the utmost respect,” Watson tweeted.
“I just want a genuine apology, for us and our community, for putting us in these situations where we don't know what to do,” she says. “There are so many people that are against us, saying, ‘Why would he do that? He has no reason to do that. He has a beautiful girlfriend; he has this, this, this and this.’ All of those things are true, but fame doesn't create character.”Sports Illustrated
SI reports that Mary spoke to Buzbee’s law firm but she felt pressured to sign a contract for them to represent her and so she declined. She’s not sure yet if she will pursue legal action and is working with a civil rights attorney to review her choices.
Meanwhile, Buzbee filed three additional lawsuits against Watson this week. The suits were filed Sunday evening and made publicly available on Monday. Buzbee said Friday night in an Instagram post that he had filed 20 total lawsuits to Harris County District Court.
One of the most recent lawsuits claims that, “As a result of the repeated lawsuits, Watson is deleting Instagram messages, and contacting those who formally provided him massages, in an attempt to settle.”
On Monday, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement responding to those claims:
Like a lot of people, Deshaun regularly deletes past Instagram messages. That said, he has not deleted any messages since March 15th, the day before the first lawsuit was filed. We categorically deny that he has reached out directly to his accusers in an attempt to settle these cases. Opposing counsel’s continued statements that these cases aren’t about money do not square with the facts in at least two of these cases. It is incredibly irresponsible to continue to make these types of false allegations in this avalanche of anonymous lawsuits, particularly while we are still trying to find out who the accusers are. We will address these issues, and others raised in these cases, in our formal response to the court in the coming weeks.Rusty Hardin
The 19th lawsuit filed says that over two private massage appointments that took place at the plaintiff’s mom’s house in Pearland, Texas in November 2020, Watson exposed himself, purposely touched the plaintiff with his penis, and ejaculated onto her. The 18th and 19th lawsuits both allege multiple encounters with Watson where his behavior became progressively more inappropriate.
The 19th suit is unique in that the plaintiff knew Watson previously through mutual friends, so she trusted him, “and never could imagine he would eventually assault her.” She’s the only plaintiff whose lawsuit has specifically detailed a previous relationship with Watson.
The suit says that the plaintiff was still in massage school when Watson sent her an Instagram message wanting to schedule an appointment. The suit says that Watson wanted her to give him a massage at his private hotel suite, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing that because “she did not want the massage to seem fishy being at a hotel.” She declined.
Then, per the lawsuit, Watson, “kept barraging her” with messages. He reached out to a mutual friend, who talked to the plaintiff’s best friend, who then encouraged her to do the massage. The plaintiff felt better about it, but she didn’t yet have an office, so she told Watson she would schedule him once she had secured a location. “Nevertheless,” the suit says, “Watson was persistent in wanting to schedule a massage with her.”
Watson was so persistent that he said he would drive to her mother’s home in Pearland, Texas (about 30 miles from Watson’s home) so they could schedule a massage. Before the massage, the suit says Watson texted the plaintiff, “I even have a NDA I have therapist sign too.”
The suit doesn’t specify whether the plaintiff signed the NDA or not, and this is the third lawsuit that references Watson or the plaintiff’s boss mentioning an NDA. Like each of the 19 lawsuits, the suit says that Watson kept directing the plaintiff towards his groin, saying to her, “get up in there,” and “don’t be scared.” The lawsuit says that Watson exposed himself to the plaintiff in the first appointment, and the plaintiff, a student in massage still, was sweating, and “was extremely uncomfortable because basically Watson was telling her to touch his penis.”
The suit includes details of text messages from Watson that could support the plaintiff’s case. The suit says the massage ended at 6:00 p.m. and Watson texted her at 6:06 p.m after he'd left her mother's house. “Hope that wasn’t bad,” the text said. This lawsuit is the sixth of the 19 lawsuits to allege details that suggest Watson was aware that his actions during the private massage sessions were wrong and unwelcome.
Per the lawsuit, Watson scheduled a second appointment with the plaintiff, who thought she had done a bad job “from a massage standpoint” and wanted to give Watson the benefit of the doubt. But this time, the suit says, Watson touched the plaintiff’s hand with his penis and then ejaculated on her arm and hand. After the session, the lawsuit alleges that Watson texted the plaintiff trying to schedule her again later that afternoon. "Maybe 4:30? At Houstonian? I see you're getting comfortable with certain techniques & areas."
The suit says the plaintiff declined to do the next massage and then Watson texted her almost every day asking for another massage and called her three times a day.
The lawsuit says that the plaintiff reached out to a friend, who “played for the NFL and told him the complete story. The NFL player told her there is a thin line between physical therapy and sexual pleasure. The NFL player said Watson crossed that line over into sexual pleasure.”
The lawsuit says that when Watson arrived for his second session with the plaintiff on Nov. 10, he said he had come from practice and just gotten a massage before arriving at her mother’s house. He then tried to schedule another massage with her that same day. She didn’t agree, but Watson allegedly was trying to schedule his third massage that same day.
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