Shortly after two new lawsuits accusing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct became public Wednesday morning, Watson’s defense team released a list of statements from 18 female massage therapists defending his conduct during massages they gave him or witnessed over the years.
Watson has now been sued by 21 women for alleged misconduct and sexual assault during private massages, all of whom have chosen to remain anonymous and are represented by local attorney and former Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee. Many of the lawsuits allege that after soliciting massages over social media, Watson touched massage therapists with his penis during sessions, repeatedly insisted that they work on his groin and backside specifically, and in multiple instances, supposedly forced therapists to perform oral sex.
One of the latest suits against Watson alleges that he “aggressively demanded that the Plaintiff stick her fingers into his anus” before she abruptly ended the massage. The other new lawsuit accuses Watson of “coercing her to perform oral sex on him, and ejaculating on her.”
In a concerted attempt to paint Watson in a more favorable light, Watson’s defense released statements Wednesday from 18 women who “are deeply troubled by the accusations” made against Watson and who believe the allegations are “wholly inconsistent with their experiences with him and who they believe him to be.” All 18 women who released statements Wednesday supporting Watson made their identities public.
Watson’s defense attorney Rusty Hardin said these women who have spoken out on Watson’s behalf have collectively worked with the Texans star “more than 130 times over the past five years.”
“These statements show the other side to this story that has been so lacking in the flurry of anonymous complaints filed by opposing counsel,” Hardin said. It’s the most vigorous attempt from Hardin yet to defend Watson, and comes after Hardin claimed last week that at least one of Watson’s accusers had privately attempted to blackmail the quarterback into paying her to keep quiet about what happened during their massage appointment.
One massage therapist, Myah Roberson of Houston, claimed that she didn’t see anything wrong with how Watson allegedly only wanted to cover his naked body with a towel during the massages described in the various lawsuits against him.
“When I saw that the first lawsuit mentioned a towel, I chuckled because I gave him that idea. And it’s not inappropriate because they teach you in massage school that using a towel is okay,” Roberson said. “Some of these accusations are so ludicrous,” she continued. “I just can’t see him doing any of those things.”
Many of the massage therapists defending Watson mentioned they didn’t think it was inappropriate for Watson to have requested his massages to focus on his glutes and groin areas, two areas of the body many of Watson’s accusers said he aggressively asked them to work on often while he was fully exposed.
“He tells you what areas he wants worked on — usually groin, glutes and abs, which is normal for athletes,” said Joanne Brito, who’s been a licensed therapist for over a decade and said she massaged Watson “three to five times in all, the last time being in November 2020.”
Several of Watson’s accusers claimed he either asked them to touch his penis during their appointments or forcibly touched them with his penis while they were massaging him, claims that some of Watson’s defenders attempted to write off as harmless.
Raechal Martin, an athletic trainer who called the accusations “so infuriating,” said that “Any licensed therapist knows that you may graze the penis during the course of the massage and you are taught to address it professionally.”
“You are also taught that the therapist is in charge and to immediately speak up if something makes you uncomfortable,” she continued.
While it seemed like Martin may have been hinting that the women who sued Watson should have done more to try and stop his supposedly inappropriate behavior, another of Watson’s defenders went even further.
Norma Reyna, the former director of Memorial Hermann’s massage school who said she “frequently observed Deshaun attending sessions with another therapist,” claimed that “it is not uncommon to accidentally graze the penis” during a massage, and described what she called the “professional way to deal with it.”
“If a therapist feels uncomfortable at any time during the session,” Reyna said, “he or she has the ability to end the session and immediately file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations and vice versa.”
“You don’t get a lawyer and file a lawsuit or go to the news media. You file a complaint immediately,” she said. Reyna didn’t mention that Watson’s accusers all claimed that the reason they didn’t go to the police, file formal complaints or leave their appointments was because they feared retaliation from the powerful athlete, who on multiple occasions allegedly asked his accusers to keep things quiet for the good of both their livelihoods.
Considering these statements issued Wednesday, there are now only three fewer women who have defended Watson publicly than there are women who have anonymously accused him of sexual misconduct.
That’s 39 massage therapists in total — all of them women — who have spoken out about their experiences with Watson.
It begs the question: Why would one of the highest-paid athletes in all of professional sports need to hire nearly 40 different massage therapists over the past five years?
The full list of statements issued Wednesday in Watson’s defense is embedded below: