Lawsuit against Texans claims team received complaints about Deshaun Watson’s massage behavior
(Warning: This story contains allegations of sexual misconduct.)
HOUSTON — A lawsuit filed against the Houston Texans on Monday alleges the team was made aware of some of quarterback Deshaun Watson’s massage preferences during a 17-month period in which he allegedly attempted to sexualize sessions with multiple women.
The suit, which was filed by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee as part of his representation of client Toi Garner, claims the Texans were alerted to Watson “seeking out unqualified strangers for massages via Instagram” by a company that had been contracted by the franchise to provide professional therapeutic services to Houston players.
The suit also alleges the franchise had fielded complaints from The Houstonian Hotel regarding the number of women visiting Watson in a team-provided suite at the establishment. According to Buzbee, fielding those complaints — as well as Watson being provided a nondisclosure agreement by team security to be used in massage sessions — put the Texans in a position of “enabling” his behavior during encounters with women that ultimately resulted in 24 civil lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Twenty of the 24 suits from individual women were settled earlier this month.
Garner’s allegations in her civil suit against Watson claim the quarterback “aggressively expos[ed] his naked body to her, purposely touching her with his penis, and ultimately ejaculating onto her.” The filing against the Texans alleges the team “knew” or “should have known” about Watson’s alleged conduct in massages.
“Today we filed the first case of what will likely be many against the Houston Texans related to Deshaun Watson’s behavior,” Buzbee said Monday in a statement. “Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct. Beyond that, we believe the filing speaks for itself.”
The Texans said they were notified of the suit Monday, but declined further comment.
“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today,” a team spokesman said in a statement. “Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization.”
According to the suit, the Texans were aware that Watson had repeatedly declined to have massages performed at the team’s facility, while also circumventing the team’s preferred setup with an outside contractor, Genuine Touch Massage Clinic. The lawsuit contends the Texans ignored complaints about Watson’s behavior from the owner of Genuine Touch, Joni Honn, who allegedly told the franchise the quarterback was seeking out “strangers” for services through Instagram.
“Despite having a full training staff available to him with the Texans, and despite having the services of a specified massage therapy entity — Genuine Touch — available to him, Deshaun Watson refused to have massages done at the Texans stadium and instead preferred to reach out to strangers on Instagram for massages,” the suit claims. “[T]he Texans were well aware of Watson’s preference. In fact, as early as June 2020, the owner of Genuine Touch — Joni Honn complained to the Texans that Watson was seeking out unqualified strangers for massages via Instagram. Her stated concern to the Texans was that Watson was putting himself in danger of contracting Covid, or getting himself sued.”
The filing goes on to to state that Honn said Watson was conducting himself in a concerning manner during sessions, using a “towel trick” to attempt to sexual sessions, “hump[ing] the table” and leaving “a wet spot” during encounters. It also claims that a Texans athletic trainer, Roland Ramirez, was asked by Watson for a massage table while the quarterback was using a room at The Houstonian Hotel, and that Ramirez later fielded complaints about Watson in relation to his use of the room.
“Texans’ trainer Roland Ramirez had received several complaints from the general manager at the Houstonian regarding Watson and the number of women coming to Watson’s room there,” the suit alleges.
The filing also circles back to the nondisclosure agreement that Texans team security provided to the quarterback after he made them aware of a woman making veiled accusations about him on social media. Buzbee had claimed that Watson began attempting to employ that NDA in massages in the same week it was provided by the franchise.
In summation, the suit alleges the Texans should have known about Watson’s alleged behavior or investigated it, but did not. It seeks to hold the team liable for Watson’s conduct through a failure to monitor or question an employee's actions after being alerted to concerns by outside entities.