The 16 Lawsuits Filed Against Deshaun Watson Tell One Story
9:01 AM EDT on March 25, 2021
There are now 16 women who have filed civil lawsuits against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson accusing him of sexual assault. Tony Buzbee, the attorney who represents all 16 women, told Houston Fox 26 on Monday that there are now 24 women (including those who filed lawsuits) who have contacted him with similar accusations against Watson.
Seven lawsuits were filed last week, seven on Monday, and two more on Tuesday. Buzbee said Sunday in an Instagram post that he planned to submit "affidavits and evidence" about the alleged sexual assault cases to Houston police on Monday. A Houston police spokesperson declined to comment on whether Buzbee actually submitted what he said he would, and referred Defector to a statement put out over the weekend that said police are "unaware of any contact between HPD and Houston attorney Tony Buzbee regarding the allegations contained in his recently filed lawsuits and no incident reports regarding these allegations have been filed in our jurisdiction." Buzbee also said he would request a grand jury review what he was providing, although it is worth pointing out that what goes before a grand jury is up to prosecutors. Like with the police, the Harris County district attorney declined to comment.
Last week, the NFL confirmed it opened an investigation into the allegations against Watson. If Watson’s case leads to a criminal investigation, he could land on the commissioner's exempt list, where he would be ineligible to play next season but receive full pay. If that does not happen, he’ll likely be able to play next season.
Watson has said he will fight the lawsuits and has lawyer Rusty Hardin representing him. On Tuesday, Hardin released a statement in defense of his client. "I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false,” Hardin wrote.
But if you set aside the many public statements by both sides, what remains are 16 court documents. The following details are from the information provided in the 16 civil lawsuits filed so far to the district court of Harris County, Texas. They all describe events that they say take place between March of 2020 and March of 2021, with all but two describing events in 2020. The suits all outline similar situations using very specific language, which reveal a pattern in how Watson allegedly found and assaulted these women.
Arranging the massages
In 13 of the 16 lawsuits, the women say they got out-of-the-blue DMs from Watson on Instagram, a platform that they use to market their small businesses to potential clients. Most of the women had never worked for Texans players before Watson contacted them (12 of the 16 lawsuits specifically say the women never worked with Watson or the Texans, two didn’t specify, and two of the women had prior experience working with other NFL players and other professional athletes).
Six of the women are licensed massage therapists, while the other 10 work in other fields such as personal training, bodywork and stretch therapy, and wellness therapy. Four of the women who aren't massage therapists specifically told Watson that they were not trained in massage therapy. Their lawsuits say Watson was insistent on booking them for a massage anyway. The 12th lawsuit, filed by the woman who offered cosmetic services, alleges that her inexperience in massage therapy allowed Watson to take advantage of her.
“Watson got completely naked,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff had never done a massage before so she thought maybe this was normal behavior. …Watson wanted her to massage the area underneath his genitals and anus. Again, Plaintiff was not familiar with a Swedish massage so she did not know what was proper.”
The locations where these alleged assaults took place vary. Most occurred in spas, hotel suites, and offices. One happened in Watson’s Houston home and several took place at the homes of the women. Just two of the lawsuits say the assault happened outside of Houston: one in Los Angeles, and the other in the Atlanta area.
In seven of the lawsuits, the women allege that prior to arriving for his appointment, Watson asked them if anyone else would be there at the location or asked if the location was private (these appointments happened in a spa, plaintiff's office suite, or the plaintiff's house, one was an unspecified Houston location) to make sure he would be alone with the woman. In another lawsuit, the woman alleges that Watson told her that he "liked his business confidential." And in another, the woman alleges her boss told her that "the client liked his privacy."
In another lawsuit, the woman says that she went to a Los Angeles house where Watson was staying, where Watson led her to a room, then shut and locked the door behind him. “At this point, Plaintiff got out her mace,” the lawsuit says. “Watson saw the mace and chuckled but didn’t say anything.”
The ninth lawsuit says that Watson forced the plaintiff to give him oral sex during a private massage appointment at the spa where she worked. He made his appointment for 7:00 p.m. and asked if anyone else would be there before he arrived. “Plaintiff was so scared and distraught," the suit says. “She was alone at the spa and feared for her life.”
Nature of the alleged assaults
All of the lawsuits allege that after securing privacy, 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. Four of the lawsuits say Watson covered himself with a small towel, and of those four, two specifically allege that Watson brought the small towel with him to the appointment. Nine of the lawsuits say that Watson purposely shifted the towel to expose himself, or that the towel fell off when he flipped over from laying on his stomach to his back. Five of the lawsuits allege that Watson got completely naked at the start of the appointment and never covered himself. Three of those five allege that Watson specifically refused to use a towel or a sheet when the plaintiffs asked him to.
Per four separate lawsuits, the most common excuse Watson gave as to why he could not cover himself with the standard towel or draping was that he “got hot easily."
After manipulating his towel, all of the lawsuits allege that Watson then repeatedly directed the women to direct their work to his glutes, buttocks, inner thighs, or groin. Many of the lawsuits include the same alleged language from Watson, instructing the women to “come up higher,” or “go deeper” in an attempt to get the women closer to his penis.
Four of the lawsuits say that Watson asked the women specifically to work on his anus, and another, the ninth lawsuit, filed by the woman who says she feared for her life alone at the spa, says that Watson forced the plaintiff to put her hands inside his anus. The assault alleged in that lawsuit occurred in August, and the woman says she is seeing a psychiatrist now.
Two lawsuits say Watson forced the plaintiffs to perform oral sex, and 13 lawsuits specifically state that Watson inappropriately touched the women with his penis. Five allege that Watson ejaculated during the private massage appointment; two lawsuits say that Watson masturbated in front of the women, one says that he kissed her, and one says that he grabbed her buttocks and vagina.
Three plaintiffs detail two separate massage appointments with Watson, where his behavior was more aggressive on the second encounter.
The most recent assault alleged in a lawsuit occurred earlier this month. Buzbee has said it happened after he contacted Watson's representation over a month ago.
Communications after the alleged assaults
Five of the lawsuits include details that suggest Watson was aware that his actions during the private massage sessions were wrong and unwelcome. The first lawsuit says that Watson texted the plaintiff to apologize after she ended the session crying when Watson exposed himself and touched her hand with his penis. Buzbee shared a screenshot on Instagram that shows the alleged text from Watson.
The 16th lawsuit also says that, after touching her with his penis and ejaculating on the plaintiff, Watson texted her the same day asking if she was okay. The fifth lawsuit says that Watson told the plaintiff on the phone before his appointment, “I make a lot of massage therapists uncomfortable and it’s really hard for me to find someone who will meet my needs.”
The second lawsuit says that when the plaintiff stopped the massage and said she needed to leave because Watson touched her hand with his penis, Watson grabbed the plaintiff's hand, rubbed her arm, and said, "It is okay, it is okay."
The 14th lawsuit says that after Watson exposed his erection to the plaintiff and forced her to touch his penis, Watson told her, “I will not have you sign a NDA, but don’t ever talk about this.”
Wanting to pay for sex acts
Watson booked appointments with three of the women through the managers at the spa where each worked. In two of those instances, plaintiffs allege that Watson did not pay them the full amount they were owed because Watson expected the massage to include sexual acts. From the ninth lawsuit: “When Plaintiff asked her manager why she was not paid the full price, she was told that Watson said that Plaintiff had not given him what he wanted.”
In his second appointment with the ninth plaintiff, who prior to the appointment didn’t realize it was Watson who had booked with her again, Watson told her, “I want to cum.” When the woman told him she didn’t provide that service, Watson told her that he receives that kind of treatment at the spas where he usually gets massages, and that other therapists make him “cum.”
Per the 15th lawsuit, after Watson moved his body so the plaintiff had to “brush against his penis,” Watson told her not to be scared to “touch him.” When she told him she wasn’t paid to do that, Watson told her that it was what he paid for. He only paid a third of what she was owed. “Plaintiff believes Watson is in the sex trade,” the suit says.
In the sixth lawsuit, the plaintiff declined Watson’s request to work on his “buttocks and penis area,” and Watson moved his body so that his penis touched her hand. Watson then told the woman he would, “pay extra to have Plaintiff work on those areas.” She declined.
In the 11th lawsuit, Watson asked the plaintiff if she “did more” than just professional bodywork for “more money.”
The third lawsuit
In his statement, Watson's lawyer, Hardin, talked a lot about the third lawsuit filed against Watson. In that lawsuit, the woman, a licensed massage therapist, says that Watson contacted her over Instagram and scheduled a massage appointment for Dec. 28, 2020, at a Houston office building. The suit says that Watson forced her to give him oral sex and that she “did not consent.” The plaintiff was so scared afterward that, per her lawsuit, she defecated herself.
In reference to this, Hardin released a signed statement from Bryan Burney, Watson’s marketing manager, that says he personally spoke with the woman he believes is the plaintiff in the third case.
Buzbee responded in a Facebook post, saying that "alleged sexual misconduct is serious. Attempting to criminalize or minimize those that speak out or step forward is wrong." He also said that he will “provide a copy of the non-disclosure agreement that Deshaun Watson and his marketing manager repeatedly insisted that Jane Doe (and others) sign after (and sometimes before) the 'massage session,' which she refused to sign.”
What comes next is impossible to know. Buzbee says he will file more lawsuits. Hardin is expected to provide his client with a rigorous defense. Maybe Houston police will investigate, also maybe they won't. Maybe a grand jury will get involved, and maybe it won't. What matters is, for now, there are 16 lawsuits all filed by separate women in Harris County, Texas, and they all carry a similar story.
Correction (9:44 p.m. ET): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of times Watson is accused of masturbating in front of women. It is two, not one.