The NFL is attempting to put out yet another fire.
The league has slowly recovered from the anti-American anthem protests, and television ratings are good going into the playoffs.
But one NFL sex scandal just took an unexpected left turn.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is rotting in purgatory as he awaits his fate regarding nearly two dozen sexual assault allegations.
Watson allegedly sexually assaulted or harassed 22 different masseuses in the Houston area.
The bombshell came after Watson demanded to be traded from the Texans after reaching a boiling point with ownership; Watson wanted to be consulted on the team’s general manager hire, but he was not.
Watson has denied the allegations, but a settlement agreement with one of his accusers has leaked.
Watson offered the alleged victim $100,000 in exchange for complete nondisclosure and withdrawal of criminal complaints.
“Key provisions within the settlement proposal included stipulations that the lawsuit would be dismissed with prejudice within 24 hours of the accuser signing the agreement. In addition, the accuser and her representatives would be required to observe confidentiality requirements mandating that they neither ‘speak, write, or otherwise communicate publicly or privately, including in any interviews, social media posts, blog posts, articles or any other media or forum, on the terms of this Agreement, and the amount of the settlement.’”
Watson recently signed a $160 million contract, so buying off his accusers’ silence for five figures or a low-six figures probably will not get the job done.
Watson’s limbo status has affected the entire NFL.
Prior to the allegations, several teams around the league were eager to trade for Watson, but his uncertain legal status put the brakes on any potential deal.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to put Watson on the “exempt” list and bar him from playing until the legal matters are clarified, but he did not do so.
The Texans essentially deactivated Watson for the season, so he lost a full year of football during his prime.
Teams that wanted Watson were forced to pursue other, less-talented quarterbacks, and the Texans job became toxic.
The entire situation is an utter circus, and may not even be resolved by next season.
Both the Houston Police Department and the FBI are investigating the Watson matter.
After news of the first allegation broke, Watson said in a statement:
“As a result of a social media post by a publicity-seeking plaintiff’s lawyer, I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me. I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this isn’t about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn’t about money for me — it’s about clearing my name and I look forward to doing that.”
But after the deluge of accusations, he went dark and hired a high-powered attorney.
Now Watson is offering the six-figure settlement he initially balked at.