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New Lawsuit Filed Against Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

A lawsuit filed in a Texas district court Thursday afternoon says Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson “attempted to solicit sexually related acts” from a massage therapist he booked in December 2020, when Watson played for the Houston Texans. The plaintiff, a licensed massage therapist who filed anonymously as Jane Doe, says she has sought counseling for depression and anxiety since the incident and is bringing the case “to raise awareness, and to prevent Deshaun Watson and those like him from engaging in further conduct with other future victims.”

This is the 26th civil lawsuit filed against Watson by massage therapists who say Watson sexually harassed or assaulted them during appointments. It becomes one of two active lawsuits against the quarterback, who settled 20 of the suits in June and three more in August, all for confidential amounts. One suit was dropped in August 2021. (This summer, the Texans also reached settlements with 30 women who made or were prepared to make claims against the organization.) Lauren Baxley, the plaintiff in the other active lawsuit, wrote in an essay for The Daily Beast that she had rejected settlement offers, “in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings, nor have they included any promises of rehabilitative treatment.” The other plaintiffs who sued Watson have all been represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee. This Jane Doe is the first plaintiff represented by a different attorney, Anissah Nguyen.

The lawsuit filed Thursday says Doe received a direct message from Watson on Instagram, where she marketed her massage therapy business and found clients while waiting for spas to re-open during the pandemic. She wondered why an NFL player with access to a full training staff would request a massage from a fairly low-profile massage therapist, but the plaintiff says she was eager to grow her business, and agreed to schedule an appointment for Watson.

According to the lawsuit, Watson and Doe met for the massage at a Houston hotel on Dec. 18. Doe says that Watson removed his clothes in the bathroom and emerged wearing only a towel while she set up her table. During the massage, the lawsuit says, Watson took the towel off and “offered to let [Doe] ‘get on top.'” When she refused, he pressured her into having oral sex. Doe says Watson continued to text her and request massages from her after the incident.

Nguyen told Cleveland.com in an email that she hopes to depose Watson by the end of the year. Watson has served five games of an 11-game suspension levied by the NFL in August for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. An NFL spokesperson said in a statement today that the league would monitor any new developments and address “any conduct that warrants further investigation or possible additional sanctions,” but that Watson’s status remains “unchanged” for now. The lawsuit can be read in full below:

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