This week has brought not one, not two, but a pile of individual sets of accusations against former Houston Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. And, while two different Texas Grand Jurys have found insufficient evidence to proceed to criminal trial, the NFL finds itself at a far different crossroads.
Warning: some of the details that have come to light in this investigation, particularly this week, are graphic in nature. Reader discretion is advised.
Deshaun Watson received massages from at least 66 different women in a 17-month period. Some of these women, speaking publicly for the first time, described experiences that undercut his insistence he was only seeking professional massage therapy: https://t.co/QezN8ucAHU— Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas) June 7, 2022
In its seeming Herculean efforts to market the NFL to women all over the world, by keeping silent regarding this matter, the league offices are sending a message.
Geddy Lee, Rush
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
The Deshaun Watson story is one of the biggest I can remember in the sport, and it's very bizarre that some of the biggest NFL media arms aren't covering it in any way.— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) June 7, 2022
I understand legal topics are touchy, but to just completely avoid it is mind-boggling.
When allegations first came to light that formerly beloved comedian, actor and American icon Bill Cosby was accused of being a sexual predator, those who had the most to gain from Cosby’s continued success downplayed it, brushed it off and in some cases outright ignored it.
Is history repeating itself?
Since these things have arisen with Deshaun Watson, the league has done little more than give it lip service. And, by that inaction, allowed Watson to sign one of the largest contracts in NFL history with the Cleveland Browns. A contract that was also tailored in such a way as to not have any real detrimental impact on Watson should the NFL choose to suspend him for all or part of the 2022 season.
It would seem this is the message being sent:
What the NFL says:
We value our female fans!
What the NFL does:
We ignore female fans who are abused by players, then reward those players with millions of dollars.
To Whom It May Concern: This is not OK ...
New #Texans from Houston Chronicle — Read all 24 sexual assault lawsuits filed against ex-Texans QB Deshaun Watson here https://t.co/5FhNepg8Qk— Chronicle Texans (@ChronicleTexans) June 6, 2022
No matter how spectacular he is on the field, no matter how wonderful his public persona of giving back to the community seems, no matter how much money he can make the NFL in revenue, this story appears to have hit the tipping point where the league can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.
“No one player is bigger than the game.”
NFL Code of Conduct
It is a privilege to be part of the National Football League. Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL. This includes owners, coaches, players, other team employees, game officials, and employees of the league office, NFL Films, NFL Network, or any other NFL business.
Conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL. We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.
When you have people involved in civil suits with large amounts of money, there will always exist an inherent question of motivation. Right or wrong, those seeking punitive damages, particularly in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond, will always face some level of motivational doubt from onlookers.
With 24 such cases brought against Watson, the doubt is arguably diminished, but still exists.
When you have multiple other accusers, with no financial or other ulterior motive to speaking out beyond doing what’s right, that doubt all but evaporates.
In a court of law, or grand jury proceeding, it’s often hard to prove sexual misconduct without any impartial material witnesses or recorded evidence. It simply becomes one person’s account versus that of another. Sadly, in our society, the victims (usually women and children) often lose these battles.
In the court of public opinion, not bound by such things, the voices of these women should easily outweigh the sound of NFL cash registers ringing.