Tony Buzbee expresses concern regarding NFL’s handling of Deshaun Watson investigation

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If, as it appears, the silence of the past few weeks regarding the Deshaun Watson lawsuits was the result of efforts to settle the pending 22 civil cases, those efforts apparently have ended. At least for now.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 women suing Watson, told Mark Berman of FOX26 in Houston that a settlement of the cases “is not happening.”

While that could simply be posturing sparked by whatever issues have emerged to prevent a global resolution, the settlement value partially has been undermined by virtue of the fact that, according to Buzbee, four of his clients already have met with Lisa Friel, the league’s chief investigator regarding matters falling under the umbrella of the Personal Conduct Policy. From Watson’s perspective, a settlement coupled with a broad confidentiality agreement would have prevented the 22 plaintiffs from providing information to Friel, complicating the NFL’s ability to determine whether Watson engaged in any wrongdoing. (Right, wrong, or otherwise, confidentiality is one of the terms that a defendant like Watson secures when making a settlement payment, and it has tangible value in determining the proper amount of the agreement.)

Meanwhile, Buzbee has now turned some of the public pressure he previously applied to Watson to Friel. Via Berman, Buzbee complained that “some of the women did not feel like they were being respected” by the NFL. Those concerns prompted Buzbee to personally attend the most recent session with one of his clients and Friel.

Buzbee added that “probably four more women . . . want to meet with the NFL,” but Buzbee said he’s not certain he’s going to allow that to happen.

He didn’t elaborate on the basis for his belief that his clients were not being respected, pointing out only that “every time these women recount this situation, they have to relive it.” It could be that they were asked questions that made them think the league didn’t believe them. It could be that they were asked questions that made them think the league didn’t regard their accounts as reflecting serious misconduct. Frankly, it could simply be strategic puffery with no real basis in fact.

And it could be that these comments from Buzbee are a public signal to Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, that even though four women have spoken with the NFL, a settlement would stop more from meeting with the league — and that the next wave of meetings (based on Buzbee’s effort to publicly pressure Friel and the league) could result in a more careful effort to extract the kind of information that would result in the league imposing significant discipline on Watson.

Only a handful of Buzbee’s clients claim that Watson engaged in any type of forcible sexual misconduct. It’s unknown whether any of those plaintiffs have spoken to the league.

Bottom line? The settlement talks, which most likely were happening, have reached an impasse. Buzbee’s comments seem to be aimed at trying to break the logjam and, if not, to force the league to take the situation more seriously than, in his clients’ perspective, it previously has.

Tony Buzbee expresses concern regarding NFL’s handling of Deshaun Watson investigation originally appeared on Pro Football Talk