In a new article published today, Sports Illustrated has returned with more info on the Deshaun Watson lawsuits. In the latest piece, SI looks at the reasoning behind why some of Deshaun’s behaviors could be classified as questionable.
Watson, according to Hardin, gets at least two to three massages per week, including in the offseason, amounting to as many as 120 to 150 per year. There’s nothing unusual about that number in itself. But the quantity of different therapists Watson appears to have used, as well as the lack of experience of some that he hired and the massage techniques he requested according to the civil suits, stand out as different from the experiences shared by his NFL colleagues. One person with close ties to the Texans says a member of the team’s medical staff, worried about increased risk of injury to the franchise quarterback, was concerned last year when they were told Watson was seeking out therapists on Instagram.
Adds the NFC defensive back: “I don’t know guys who use 22 different masseuses,” referring to the number of plaintiffs during an interview in March. (“Massage therapist” is the proper term for the profession, considered by many to be adjacent to the medical field.) He was expressing skepticism about the plaintiffs—the number itself, that one player would have worked with that many therapists, seems so unrealistic. But the number is likely far higher. If you count all 22 plaintiffs as having worked with Watson as well as a former plaintiff who dropped her suit “for now” (she cited privacy and security concerns, after the court ruled all women had to refile with their real names), the 18 therapists who issued statements in support of Watson through Hardin’s firm and other therapists who spoke to SI (and whose accounts were verified), Watson has worked with at least 44 therapists over the past few years. He has reached out to more than that.
This is a really good look at why Deshaun using so many different massage therapists seems odd. With the perspective of another active NFL player, it certainly adds more credence to that idea.
Elsewhere in the article, SI delves into the struggles of LMTs and working with athletes other than Watson in the past. These accounts are fairly rough, so please follow the link if you’re interested.
Largely, the article retreads many of the same points from the previous work, but with the addition of a new player by the name of “Susan”.
Susan has been a licensed massage therapist for more than a decade, with a clientele she says is about 90% athletes. She’s worked on Watson “many times over several years” and says she’s “only had professional experiences.” Susan has eight other therapists she sends clients to when her schedule is full, which she has done regularly with Watson. These therapists, including Mary, had contracts with Susan, who says she charges the client for the session, subtracts her referral fee and pays the other therapist about 70%.
Mary told SI that during her appointment with Watson in the fall of 2019, he purposely removed the towel covering him, told her she could touch and move his exposed penis (she ignored his suggestion), and began thrusting his pelvis into the air after developing an erection; she also noticed what she believed to be pre-ejaculate on Watson’s stomach. Susan confirms that Mary reported concerns about Watson’s conduct to her directly following their appointment, specifically the thrusting and that he wanted to be uncovered. She says she apologized to Mary and was “almost embarrassed” that happened with one of her clients. Susan says she then talked to Watson about his conduct with Mary, but declines to share details of that conversation, calling it “confidential.”
There’s one little part here that kind of frustrating. Susan is speaking under anonymity and revealing these new details, but she won’t reveal the contents of her conversation with Watson because it’s confidential? I understand it, but it seems like it would be important to know.
Additionally, it’s been verified that Watson made the trade request after, not before, the allegations took place. You can put your tinfoil hat away now.
Susan next heard from Solis’s colleague just before Christmas in 2020—a full month before Buzbee told the Washington Post that Solis first contacted his firm. (When asked about the discrepancy, Buzbee, via email, responded, “She was in contact with us for several months prior to filing the lawsuit.”) This time she forwarded Susan a screenshot of a message that asked whether Susan would talk to “Ashley’s lawyer (in reference to this summer and the Texans player).” The colleague identified Ashley Solis by name and said that her attorney was “Cornelia Harvey.” She then shared a phone number that matches Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, an associate at The Buzbee Law Firm. This exchange was before Week 16 of the NFL season and weeks before Watson’s trade demand, defusing the conspiracy theory that has swirled, even in some NFL circles, that the suits are somehow related to Watson’s discord with the team.
The article also dives into the backgrounds of Rusty Hardin and Tony Buzbee, but they’re fairly publicized already.Some of Hardin’s missteps were put on display.
Hardin’s public statements have also in some cases been imprecise. A Houston Chronicle article in April identified three names among the 18 supporting therapists were misspelled in the Hardin firm’s press release, and could not find any record of the license for three others whose licensing was referenced in the release. (The newspaper also reported that Buzbee misspelled the name of one plaintiff and a license couldn’t be found for another client who was identified as an LMT.) The first therapist quoted, Myah Roberson, wrote that she “chuckled” reading the mention of a towel in Solis’s lawsuit, claiming she gave Watson that idea when they began working together in December 2019. But earlier that year, Mary was told by Susan that one of Watson’s standard preferences was to use a towel. (Hardin’s team said the names were “inadvertently” misspelled and that they knew two of the therapists did not have active licenses. They did not respond to specific questions about how these accounts were vetted. Roberson did not reply to a request for comment via email.)
Vrentas also comments on the expectation for Watson will be suspended at the tail end of the piece. However, it seems set in stone that the Texans will move on from Deshaun with the recent filling of the quarterback room. Again, all these allegations have to be proven in court. There’s a lot of ground left to cover.