Deshaun Watson accusers frustrated over investigation: 'The NFL and Roger Goodell have failed me'
At least two of the 22 women who have accused Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct are frustrated with the way the NFL has handled its investigation into Watson, according to Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated.
Vrentas spoke to two of Watson's accusers — Lauren Baxley and Ashley Solis — both of whom had reservations about their interviews with league investigators.
Content warning: The following contains depictions of sexual misconduct.
Baxley and Solis felt NFL investigators were "patronizing" and "victim-blaming" during interviews. Solis grew angry when the investigator asked what Solis was wearing when she met with Watson.
“This woman asked me what I was wearing, which honestly really pissed me off,” Solis told Sports Illustrated in what was her first interview with a media outlet. “She explained that that’s something that she has to ask—which I don’t believe at all. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be wearing that would suggest that I don’t want you to put your penis on my hand. Do I need to wear a turtleneck?”
Baxley felt the NFL investigators were "looking for a weakness" in her story.
“My forensic interview [with HPD] was very respectful and trauma-informed,” Baxley says. “They let me speak uninterrupted, whereas with Lisa Friel and the [other NFL investigator], they would cut me off, they would question things, they would circle back.” Baxley believes that they were “trying to trip me up. They didn’t, but they were really looking for the weaknesses that they thought they could exploit.”
The NFL declined to make Lisa Friel and Jennifer Gaffney — the league's investigators — available to Sports Illustrated for interviews. Later in the report, an unnamed source described why league investigators would ask about attire:
This person does not deny that NFL investigators asked Solis and Baxley what they were wearing, but says because some of the complaints against Watson detail his requesting women to wear certain attire to appointments, all have been asked whether he did so, whether they complied with his requests and what they did wear for his appointment. Neither Solis nor Baxley were questioned by Houston police about what they wore during the appointment, and both perceived the NFL’s line of questioning as judgmental by putting the focus on their conduct rather than Watson’s.
Ten of Watson's 22 accusers have spoken with the NFL. At least one more woman will meet with the league, according to Vrentas.
Deshaun Watson accusers detail encounters with Watson
Both women shared their encounters with Watson with Sports Illustrated. The stories follow similar paths. In both instances, Watson reached out on Instagram to book massage appointments with the women.
Once the massages began, Watson reportedly started directing the women to his groin. In Solis' case, Watson allegedly exposed his penis to her after asking Solis to work on his abdomen. When Solis asked Watson to readjust himself, Watson reportedly moved his erect penis into Solis' hand.
Solis said Watson started acting more rehearsed once Solis asked Watson to leave. Solis claims Watson made veiled threat about how Solis wouldn't want anyone to mess with her reputation and career, and that Watson didn't want that either.
Solis said during the encounter she kept thinking about Watson's reputation as a good guy in the community. It made her second-guess and doubt Watson's intentions during the massage. Solis added she tried to take her case to multiple law firms, but felt they backed out upon realizing Watson was involved.
Baxley said Watson asked for a "nonsexual" massage in messages, but that changed when the massage started. Baxley told Watson he could wear a towel during the massage, but when she entered the room, he was reportedly face down on the table and completely naked, with his legs spread so Baxley could see Watson's scrotum.
Watson reportedly exposed himself to Baxley multiple times, and also reportedly deliberately moved so that Watson's penis fell into Baxley's hand. Watson reportedly told Baxley to "just grab it" if Watson's penis got in Baxley's way. Baxley said Watson was smiling throughout, as if he was pleased with himself.
Baxley added she tried to schedule another massage with Watson after being told she could record the encounter as evidence. Watson was unable to make that session and the two never met up a second time.
Deshaun Watson able to participate in training camp
With the NFL's investigation still ongoing, Watson is allowed to take part in Texans' training camp. He's participated in camp thus far, though hasn't received many reps. Despite the accusations, Watson still wants to be traded from the Texans. Watson expressed frustration with local media Thursday over the amount of coverage he's received at camp.
Baxley views Watson's presence at training camp as a sign that the NFL has failed her and the rest of Watson's accusers.
“The NFL recently made it clear that they were taking a stand against women and survivors of sexual assault when they stated that Watson would be able to participate in team activities without restrictions, despite the dozens of women whose experiences and testimony prove a pattern of mental and sexual abuse,” Baxley says. “Watson deserves a fair day in court. But the NFL and Roger Goodell have failed me. And they have failed the other women by choosing inaction.”
The Texans did not practice Friday. The team is set to play its first game of the preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
Watson will not play in the contest.
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