Deshaun Watson defends Texans players' get-together that appeared to violate NFL COVID-19 rules

A group of Houston Texans players were in attendance at the grand opening of Deshaun Watson’s new restaurant franchise on Tuesday, and the NFL might have something to say about that.

Watson, the new owner of a Lefty’s Cheesesteak franchise, saw a turnout that included Brandin Cooks, Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard, Duke Johnson, Roderick Johnson and Charles Omenihu, according to the Houston Chronicle. Also in attendance were various friends and family, including Watson’s mother and girlfriend, and other business acquaintances.

The event wasn’t held in secret, as the Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson tweeted out photos of the guests posing for pictures.

Here’s why the NFL might have a problem with that.

Why the Texans’ event might have broken NFL rules

Even ignoring that some players were seen maskless, the event seems to violate the section of the league’s COVID-19 protocols entitled “Group Activity Outside of the Club Facility.”

The important language:

Groups of more than three (3) Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Individuals, including players, are prohibited from gathering outside of the Club facility or team travel ... Clubs and players are reminded that violations of this provision will result in discipline.

By the Chronicle’s account, at least seven Texans players in attendance at Watson’s restaurant, more than double the three allowed by NFL rules.

Watson insisted on Wednesday that the Texans’ event had followed the NFL’s stipulations.

From ESPN:

On Wednesday, when Watson was asked whether the event was following the NFL's protocols, Watson said, "yes, for sure."

"I mean, we had the masks," Watson said. "We did everything that we were supposed to do. Six feet from different people. It was a restaurant opening. It wasn't really an event. It was a grand opening of my restaurant. So people were coming in to get food and things like that and everyone was excited about it. So, it turned out pretty good, and right now from the messages I got from after, it's still popping. So everyone go out to Lefty's on Kirby, for sure."

Of course, some of what Watson said is not exactly true. Some might even call it outright false, considering the above photographic evidence of Watson and other posing for pictures while quite clearly not wearing a mask, and in close contact with various acquaintances.

An NFL spokesperson later told ESPN that the league is aware of the event:

When reached for comment on the event, league spokesperson Brian McCarthy said, "We are aware of the event but will decline further comment."

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 13: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks on in action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans on December 13, 2020, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Deshaun Watson's new restaurant might end up more expensive than expected. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Raiders have already drawn the NFL’s ire for a similar incident, in which several players, including quarterback Derek Carr, were seen socializing without a mask at a charity event organized by tight end Darren Waller. Several players were fined $15,000 for the violation.

We’ll see if the NFL levies similar sanctions against the Texans.

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