Deshaun Watson accuser: Cleveland Browns contract was a 'big screw you'
Two of Deshaun Watson’s accusers had a similar reaction when they learned of his record $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.
“It’s just like a big screw you,” Ashley Solis said on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel airing Tuesday night. “That's what it feels like. That we don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”
Another accuser, Kyla Hayes, said, “It was sick to me.”
“Why?” asked HBO correspondent Soledad O’Brien
“I felt like he's being rewarded for bad behavior,” Hayes replied.
Solis and Hayes are among 22 women who are suing Watson and have accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions from early 2020 to March 2021.
Watson has denied wrongdoing and recently was traded from the Houston Texans to the Browns, which gave him a record guaranteed contract of $230 million over five years.
Solis last year spoke publicly about her encounter with Watson at her home in the Houston area in March 2020. But the airing of this new HBO interview comes shortly after Watson testified in a May 13 pretrial deposition about his encounter with her in detail. Watson admits to apologizing to her in a text after their encounter in March 2020, according to the deposition transcript obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
He also appears to dispute whether she was crying at the end of the massage but admits her eyes were “watering” and that she was “teary-eyed.” The dictionary defines “cry” as to shed or produce tears.
In the HBO segment Tuesday, one of Watson’s attorneys, Leah Graham, spoke about three consensual encounters Watson had with massage professionals. Watson's lead attorney, Rusty Hardin, previously has said the women are lying, out for money and there were "sometimes consensual encounters."
“Deshaun Watson has insisted that in these massages, that he was looking for nothing other than professional services, but we know he did have sex with three women, right?” O’Brien of HBO asked Graham. “Oral sex with two, vaginal sex with another. So how do you explain unintentionally ending up having sex with people who are giving you professional massages?”
“Well, in every massage, I will tell you he did go, intending just for a professional massage, and only those three instances where sexual conduct occurred – consensual sexual activity – it occurred after the massage session had ended,” Graham replied, according to the excerpts. “And Mr. Watson has testified and is insistent that that sexual activity was initiated by the plaintiff in every single instance.”
Solis alleged that Watson exposed himself to her and caused his penis to touch her hand near the end of her encounter with him. Her lawsuit said this caused her to be scared and cry.
At the end of the encounter, she told HBO that Watson told her, “I know you have a career to protect” and "I know you don't want anyone messing with it just like I don't want anyone messing with mine."
“To me, that's when I got really scared,” she said in the interview. Solis also was present for Watson's deposition in Houston May 13.
Watson said in that deposition he didn’t say that and didn’t know why she was teary-eyed.
He admitted in the deposition that he sent her this text after their encounter: “Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable. Never were the intentions. Let me know if you want to work in the future. My apologies."
“Why did you send that?” asked Solis’ attorney, Maria Holmes.
“Because I – that wasn't my intentions," he said, according to the deposition transcript. "I never meant to make her feel uncomfortable, like she said that – I'm assuming that she was uncomfortable.”
Solis left the room near the end of the encounter.
“So afterwards when she came in, she was, I guess, watering,” Watson testified May 13. “I don't know. I don't know what her mood was. But, like I said, it was watery eyes. It wasn't balling or crying like that or anything. And I was confused. We were talking about it, what was going on. She didn't really want to explain. I'm confused in what's going on. And then she was like, `Hey, I don't want your money.’ "
Two grand juries in Texas looked at criminal complaints made about Watson's conduct during massage encounters but declined to indict him on criminal charges. Solis testified in one proceeding and was asked by O'Brien why the grand jury ruled the way it did.
"I have absolutely no idea," Solis said on HBO. "I don’t see how any of those human beings could have sat there in front of me and think what he did was OK."
Watson's legal team has questioned the women's credibility and pointed out that some of the plaintiffs were in contact with him after allegedly being assaulted by Watson, which raises the question why. Hayes explained this to O'Brien.
"I wasn’t sure what he was capable of," she said. "He could have physically assaulted me. He could have bashed my business. So I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."
The women's attorney, Tony Buzbee, also was asked by O'Brien if any of his clients could have an ulterior motive with their lawsuits.
"I hope not," he said. "I don’t think so. We vetted each one, but if I were ever to come to that conclusion, that case wouldn’t go forward."
The civil lawsuits could drag on into next year. No trial dates have been set.
Watson's conduct also has been under investigation by the NFL, which could suspend him under the league's personal conduct policy. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he believes the league's investigation is close to ending.
“I can't give you a timeline [for resolution] because I think that process will go forward,” Goodell said from the Spring League Meeting in Atlanta. “I think we're nearing the end of the investigative period, and then at some point this will be handled by our disciplinary officer. And that will happen hopefully shortly. And then we'll see where that comes out.”
Contributing: Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson: New details from accusers in HBO interview, transcript