Lawsuit filed against Houston Texans alleges team ‘enabled’ Deshaun Watson’s behavior

The Houston Texans were officially named Monday as defendants in the ongoing civil lawsuit involving their former quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“Today we filed the first of what is likely to be many cases against the Houston Texans related to Deshaun Watson’s conduct. Suffice it to say that the overwhelming evidence that has been gathered suggesting that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning,” said Tony Buzbee, the Houston attorney who once represented 25 different women with lawsuits against Watson .

“We believe the Texans knew, or certainly should have known, of Watson’s behavior. Beyond that, we believe the file speaks for itself,” Buzbee said.

Monday’s lawsuit provides the most detailed account yet of what, if any, prior knowledge was held by individuals within the Texas organization about Watson’s conduct.

In November 2020, the lawsuit alleges, Watson used Instagram to meet with the plaintiff and schedule a massage, although at the time she was only a massage student and Watson would have told the Texans to schedule a massage with a more experienced therapist be able. Watson eventually met the woman at her mother’s home in Manvel, Texas, brought his own small towel for the massage and, according to the lawsuit, exposed himself and sexually assaulted her.

The lawsuit describes Watson’s behavior as part of a “disturbing, predatory and distressing pattern involving a multitude of female victims.”

Watson has claimed he is innocent of the numerous allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct during massage sessions that have been leveled at him. Two grand juries in Texas declined to enter charges against Watson earlier this year.

Monday’s lawsuit also included more information about the criminal investigation into Watson. Houston Police Detective Kamesha Baker, the lead detective in Watson’s case, testified in a civil testimony that Watson’s behavior “escalated” with each massage session and that the woman who sued the Texans Monday gave “a really strong and compelling account.” This woman’s report was one of 10 reports ultimately investigated by the Houston Police Department, Baker acknowledged in her testimony. When asked in her testimony, “…there was doubt in your mind as investigators that a crime took place,” Baker replied, “No.”

Last week, Buzbee said that 20 of the 24 women with active lawsuits against Watson have agreed to settle their lawsuits. Ashley Solis, the first woman to file a lawsuit against Watson in March 2021 and the first to speak publicly and identify herself as a plaintiff, and the plaintiff in Monday’s lawsuit are two of four remaining women with active lawsuits against the Cleveland Browns quarterback, who alleges a range of behaviors ranging from indecent exposure to sexual assault.

Monday’s lawsuit alleges the Texans knew at least something about Watson’s habit of seeking multiple massages with strangers he met on Instagram. The organization learned this from the owner of the Genuine Touch Massage Clinic, a massage therapy company in Sugar Land, Texas, which identifies the Texans as customers on its website, according to the lawsuit.

Despite having a full training team at Texans and despite having the services of a particular massage therapy unit — Genuine Touch — available to him, Deshaun Watson refused to have massages performed at Texans Stadium, preferring to Instagram himself instead turn to strangers for massages,” the lawsuit reads.

Back in June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Genuine Touch owner Joni Honn “complained to Texans that Watson was using Instagram to seek out unqualified strangers for massages,” the lawsuit states. “Their stated concern to the Texans was that Watson put himself at risk of contracting Covid or being sued.”

The lawsuit states that Genuine Touch “was also aware that at least one of its therapists was engaging in sexual relations with Watson during the massage sessions and another was engaging in sexual relations.”

“Despite this behavior, and after another woman questioned Watson’s behavior and threatened to expose Watson on the internet, rather than investigating and addressing Watson’s troubling behavior, the Houston Texans organization instead issued an NDA to Watson to ‘dismiss himself to protect himself’ from the random women he found on Instagram,” the lawsuit reads.

Monday’s lawsuit contains a detailed explanation of the origins of the non-disclosure agreement Watson had massage therapists sign.

The lawsuit states that Watson “admitted that Brent Naccara, a former Secret Service agent and director of security for the Texans, conveyed the non-disclosure agreement to Watson.”

Naccara provided Watson with the NDA, the lawsuit says, after a woman named Nia Smith made an Instagram post in November 2020. According to the lawsuit, Watson had committed sexual misconduct during a massage with Smith, prompting Smith to include Watson’s photo in an Instagram post with the message, “I could really embarrass you.”

“Watson used the NDA for multiple massage sessions from random women he found on Instagram and told the women that they had to sign the Texans NDA to get paid,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also alleges that Watson sexually assaulted women during massage sessions at the Houstonian Hotel, in a room where the Texans helped Watson secure him, and that the team provided Watson with a massage table.

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today,” the Texan said in a statement. “Since March 2021, we have given full support and compliance to law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization.”

The NFL declined to comment on Monday’s lawsuit.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported over the weekend that Watson’s hearing before jointly appointed NFL and NFL Players Association disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Robinson will be listening as the NFL expects to push for a “long” suspension from Watson, according to Schefter. Once Robinson decides, Watson will have an opportunity to appeal. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could then either rule on that appeal or call on an independent ruler.

The League interviewed Watson over several days earlier this summer as part of its investigation.

“I did everything they asked me to do. I have answered truthfully every question the NFL has put to me,” Watson said earlier this month. “I’ve spent hours with the people who brought her down. That’s all I can do is be honest and tell them exactly what happened. You have a job, so I have to respect that. And that’s what we want to do is work together.” They have to make a decision that’s best for the league.”

The New York Times reported this month that Watson booked dates with at least 66 different women over a 17-month period, from fall 2019 to spring 2021. The list of 66 includes the 24 women who have filed lawsuits against Watson; a woman who sued Watson but then dropped the lawsuit; two women who filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him; at least 15 therapists who have made statements of support for Watson at the request of his attorneys; at least four therapists under contract with the Texans; five women identified by plaintiffs’ attorneys during the investigation of their lawsuits; and at least 15 other women whose dates with Watson have been confirmed through interviews and records verified by the Times.

Watson has said he has “no regrets” about his actions during one of the massage sessions. But he said in June that he regretted the impact the allegations had on those around him.

“I understand that I regret the repercussions [it’s had] on the community and people outside of myself,” he said. “And that includes my family. That includes this organization. That includes my teammates in that dressing room who have to answer these questions. That includes the Cleveland Browns fan base. This includes men, women, all around the world. That’s one thing I regret is the effect it’s having on so many people. It’s hard to deal with.”

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34156293/woman-files-lawsuit-houston-texans-deshaun-watson-nda Lawsuit filed against Houston Texans alleges team ‘enabled’ Deshaun Watson’s behavior

Emma Bowman

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