Two Of The Women Suing Deshaun Watson Tell Their Stories
7:14 PM EDT on April 6, 2021
Two of the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits accusing Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during massage appointments came forward Tuesday and attached their names to their stories: Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley. Solis read aloud from a statement to reporters at a press conference held at the Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, which is representing all 22 women; she was the first woman to file a lawsuit against Watson last month. Baxley did not appear at the press conference, but lawyer Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey read aloud from a letter that Baxley wrote to Watson. Brandfield-Harvey said Baxley wrote the letter after she was encouraged to do so by her therapist.
In her lawsuit, Solis, a licensed massage therapist, said that Watson exposed his erect penis to her and moved his body so that his penis touched her hand during a massage appointment at her home on March 30, 2020. On Tuesday, Solis read aloud from a statement detailing what she said happened with Watson and the impact it had on her life. She paused several times while reading from her statement to grab a tissue and wipe her eyes.
“I got into massage therapy to heal people, to heal their minds and bodies and to bring peace to souls,” Solis said. “He took that away from me and he tainted a profession in which I take enormous pride. Flashes of Watson’s face rush to me in a moment. I think of his penis touching me, which sends me into a tailspin. I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and depression. … I hope he knows how much pain he has inflicted on me emotionally and physically.”
Baxley’s lawsuit was the fifth filed against Watson, on March 18. She said in her court filing that Watson exposed his erect penis to her and moved his body so that his penis touched her during a massage appointment on June 2, 2020, at a Houston spa.
“Every boundary from professional to therapeutic, to sexual and degrading, you crossed, or attempted to cross” Baxley’s statement read. “You insisted that I not use my forearms or knuckles, but use my fingers for digital stimulation, which is an ethical violation of massage practice when working in the gluteal area. I did not want to touch you, but my terror kept me in autopilot.”
In addition to the 22 women he represents, lawyer Tony Buzbee said his firm has turned down five other massage therapists who worked for Watson because of concerns that they could not sustain a case. He also went into more details about the women who are suing Watson, saying 15 are African-American, four are white, and three are Hispanic.
On Friday, Houston police said they had received a complaint about Watson. Buzbee confirmed that he represents that person and that another of his clients also filed complaints with police. He clarified that it was not Solis who had filed the criminal complaint on Friday with the police, but she did provide a statement to them. When asked if more clients would also file complaints with the police, he said, “Since two, perhaps three, have already done so already, there are others that are considering it.”
The 22nd lawsuit, filed on Friday and made public on Monday, included a paragraph about the number of women Watson has allegedly seen for massage therapy. “From publicly available information, in a short time frame, in addition to the vast physical therapy and training resources available from the Texans organization, Watson used more than 50 different women for massages--some made clear that they were unlicensed, and others made sure they did not specialize in massage therapy. For some, Watson indicated exactly what clothes he wanted the therapist to wear.”
(Where the 50 figure came from wasn’t clear on Tuesday. Last week, Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, released statements in support of Watson from 18 women who said they had worked with him in a massage therapy capacity without problems. Those 18, plus the 22 plaintiffs, the five more women whom Buzbee said are not bringing lawsuits, and the one woman who spoke with Sports Illustrated about her experience with Watson totals 46 women whom Watson has gone to for massage therapy since 2017, the year he was drafted by the Texans.)
On Tuesday, Buzbee also addressed the list of names released last week by Hardin. In response, Buzbee read aloud from what he said was a copy of a direct message sent by one the 18, Jasmine Brooks. In her statement to Hardin’s team, Brooks said that she started working with Watson in 2018 and has massaged him at least 40 times since then. “I never had a single uncomfortable or inappropriate experience with Deshaun,” her statement read. At the press conference, Buzbee read from a copy of a direct message that he said Brooks sent. Buzbee said the messages began with, "I told you I stopped working with him." The response was, "Yeah. Why?"
“Because I was hearing too much stuff about him messing with other people, like other therapists and estheticians," Buzbee said, reading aloud at the press conference. "He has been doing a lot the last three, four months. I even told his ass he needed to be careful because his name is getting around. I just hope nobody calls me to question me."
After the press conference, Buzbee's law office released a copy of the screenshot. The top of the image is cut off, so the names of either people talking in it aren't visible, but the text lines up with what was read aloud at the press conference. Prior to the press conference, Defector had tried to contact Brooks by email, direct message, and through a family member, but got no reply.
Buzbee also read aloud from what he said were direct messages from one massage therapist who had a bad experience with Watson to another person, her boss or co-worker, who had set up the massage appointment. The massage therapist reported her experience to her colleague but didn’t say Watson’s name.
Buzbee read the colleague’s response, "You don't have to tell me, but out of curiosity, was it Deshaun Watson?" Buzbee went on to read more: "So she can report to the police but from what I understand they won't do much. … I can get the player personnel person for whatever team it is for her. That’s who you would talk to on a team to handle it. They don’t do much about the situation though. ... It sucks, but it's just like a regular client, in my experience they usually try the first time and then stop. If it is Deshaun, I will call his manager or agent on behalf of her if she’d like. These guys are used to being never told no and women throw themselves at them daily. It’s easier said than done, but shake it off. There's nothing she could have done or can do."
Like the other message, the law firm provided screenshots of these messages afterward. The name at the top was blacked out, so it couldn't be seen who was talking in the messages, but the text was the same as what was read aloud.
Buzbee also talked to reporters about a series of direct messages from Watson to the second plaintiff, who lives and runs her own massage business in Atlanta. This lawsuit said that Watson contacted her via Instagram and flew her out to Houston to give him a massage at the Houstonian hotel on Aug. 28, 2020. The lawsuit said Watson then exposed himself to her and touched her with his penis. On Tuesday, Buzbee used the direct messages to emphasize that it was Watson who paid for the woman to travel from Atlanta to Houston, although when asked by a reporter if this could be considered trafficking, Buzbee responded by saying, "That's a question you should ask somebody else.”
Buzbee added how in that case Watson had borrowed a massage table from the Texans to use for the massage, saying, “He does this many different times.” This detail is not included in any of the 22 lawsuits. When asked what the Texans knew about these allegations, Buzbee said he didn’t know, other than the fact Watson was having massages outside the facility.
Buzbee was asked if he planned to file any more lawsuits against Watson. He said he wasn’t sure because it’s possible more women may come forward after hearing Solis’s firsthand account. Solis said she hoped speaking publicly would give other people the courage to speak out.
“I was afraid,” Solis said. “I’m not afraid anymore.”