The steady flow of news swirling around the Deshaun Watson legal maelstrom continued on Wednesday afternoon, and this new development squarely parks Deshaun Watson’s problems, by extension at least, on the Houston Texans’ front lawn. If you thought that Watson’s legal issues were fully the problem of the Cleveland Browns now, think again.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the 24 plaintiffs currently suing the former Texans and current Cleveland Browns quarterback, indicated that he plans to add the Houston Texans (along with “others” who aren’t specified in the statement) as a defendant to the litigation against Watson:
Statement from plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee announcing he plans to add the Texans as a defendant in litigation against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who faces 24 lawsuits filed by Buzbee in Harris County. pic.twitter.com/7m2kOCiAH7
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) June 8, 2022
As of Thursday evening, the revisions Buzbee has promised had not been made public, and as standard policy, the Texans will not issue a statement until the lawsuits against them are officially filed. A recent example of this policy was their response to being added as a defendant to the Brian Flores lawsuit. So, for now, the Texans’ initial response to the first wave of lawsuits against Watson presumably remains their public stance.
Here was the Texans’ statement on March 17, 2021:
‘We became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post last night. This is the first time we heard of the matter, and we hope to learn more soon. We take accusations of this nature that involve anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously. We will await further information before making any additional statements on this incident.’
So, the question becomes “Why now for Buzbee to include the Texans as a defendant in this flood of lawsuits?” Well, it’s probably no coincidence that Buzbee is now mixing the Texans into this mess just one day after Jenny Vrentas’ explosive piece in the New York Times where it was disclosed that Watson scheduled massages with 66 different women over a 17-month period from late 2019 through early 2021.
There were two items in the piece that implicated the Texans in some way. First, it was reported that the Texans helped arrange hotel rooms at the Houstonian for Watson, rooms he subsequently used for a handful of the massage sessions in question:
It’s unclear whether the Texans knew how many massages Watson was getting or who was providing them. But their resources helped support his massage habit away from the team. Watson acknowledged in a deposition that the Texans arranged for him to have “a place” at The Houstonian. He used the fitness club, dined there and also set up massages in hotel rooms.
At least seven women met him at the hotel for appointments, according to interviews and records, including two who filed civil lawsuits and two who complained to police.
The Texans weren’t aware of the massage appointments at the hotel “that I know of,” Watson said. He also said that his access to the property was not under his name. One woman who gave Watson a massage at The Houstonian said she was told the room was registered to a member of the Texans’ training staff.
The second item that ropes the Texans into the Watson quagmire involved a template for a non disclosure agreement (NDA) that was provided to Watson by Brent Naccara, the Texans’ director of security, after Nia Smith (now Plaintiff No. 23) threatened, on Instagram, to “expose” Watson’s behavior during the summer of 2020:
Days later, when Watson went to work at the Texans’ stadium, he found an N.D.A. in his locker. He later said in a deposition that Brent Naccara, a former Secret Service agent who is the Texans’ director of security, put it there after Watson told him about Smith’s Instagram posts.
Watson began taking the N.D.A. to massages that same week, giving one to the woman in Manvel, who signed it, and another to a woman who said in her lawsuit that she ended the session after he suggested a sexual act. Watson told her she had to sign in order for him to pay, so she did, according to her filing. Watson said in a deposition that he used this N.D.A. only for massage appointments because he had lawyers and agents who handled his other business.
Without some sort of additional, corroborating evidence, neither of these actions by the Texans on behalf of Watson are abnormal or illegal. Teams often furnish hotel rooms for employees, including star players, when they request them, for a variety of reasons. Similarly, many NFL players use NDA’s with a variety of service providers — movers, landscapers, and yes, massage therapists. It’s highly doubtful the Texans knew they were providing either of this items to pave the way for behavior alleged in these lawsuits.
We await the official filing against the Texans, and the Texans’ subsequent response.
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