Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Settle Claims With 30 Deshaun Watson Accusers

Cal McNair and the Texans put Deshaun Watson behind them for good on Friday.
Cal McNair and the Texans put Deshaun Watson behind them for good on Friday. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Despite settling with 20 of his 24 accusers in civil lawsuits several weeks ago, Deshaun Watson's legal drama still lives on, with the remaining four plaintiffs still preparing to face off with Watson in court, and with the NFL still weighing exactly how (or if) they will be punishing the Cleveland Browns' quarterback. One entity that has extricated itself swiftly from the legal proceedings, though, is Watson's former employer, the Houston Texans.

A couple weeks ago, the Texans were facing the first of what attorney Tony Buzbee promised would be many lawsuits filed by Watson accusers against the Texans for their alleged role in enabling Watson's alleged massage-setting proclivities. On Friday, Buzbee announced that the Texans had reached settlements with that one plaintiff, as well as 29 other women preparing to file lawsuits against the Texans:
“I will have no further comment on the allegations or the Texans’ role, other than to say that there is a marked contrast in the way in which the Texans addressed these allegations, and the way in which Watson’s team has done so. As previously reported, only one of the 30 women who made allegations against the Texans filed a formal lawsuit. That particular lawsuit will be dismissed with prejudice as soon as the appropriate settlement paperwork is complete.

“It takes an incredible amount of fortitude for a victim of sexual misconduct to come forward. It is even more difficult when the alleged wrongdoer is famous, rich, and powerful. As I’ve said before, these cases started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman: Ashley Solis. Because of her willingness to speak out, soon others followed. I admire Ashley Solis and the other woman who were courageous enough to make their voices heard. I hope their bravery serves as an example to others who have been subjected to similar conduct. Every story has a hero – in this story, that hero is Ashley Solis and the other woman who, despite the ridicule, criticism, and vitriol directed at them, endured.

“The four filed cases against Deshaun Watson will continue. We hope to try them all in the spring of next year. In the meantime, we will continue to do the important work to prepare for such.”
For their part, the McNair family issued the following statement, in which they make two things abundantly clear — these settlements are NOT an admission of wrongdoing, and they are 100 percent out of the Deshaun Watson business and are looking to the future:
"We were shocked and deeply saddened when we first learned of the allegations against our then franchise quarterback in March 2021," Texans owners Janice McNair, Hannah and Cal McNair said in a statement Friday. "Although our organization did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson's alleged misconduct, we have intentionally chosen to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but instead a clear stand against any form of sexual assault and misconduct.

"We hope that today's resolution will provide some form of closure to the parties involved, our fans and the Houston community at large. As an organization, we will now turn our focus to the future and doing what we can to ensure respect for all."
Rounding out the parade of public statements on Friday, here was Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, on the Texans' decision to settle with these 30 women:
So what does all of this mean? A few thoughts:

There could be more lawsuits coming against Deshaun Watson
The first thing that jumps out about this news is that the Texans settled with THIRTY women. Watson's list of total plaintiffs "only" comes to 24, so where do the other six come from? Well, presumably, they are potential future plaintiffs against Watson. If you recall, the New York Times did a recent piece on the Watson legal saga in which they said there were at least 66 documented cases of women with whom Watson had scheduled massages, so to think that we've seen the last of any lawsuits against Watson from Buzbee clients (or elsewhere, perhaps) would be very naive. This news of the Texans' settlements hammers that home.

Does this impact, at all, the NFL's timeframe and magnitude for punishment?
Right now, it is widely believed that the NFL will be issuing its decision on a punishment for Watson prior to training camp. For most of the NFL, including Cleveland, players report the week of July 25, with practices beginning at the end of that week. Both sides, Watson and the NFL, have issued their five page summary briefs to Sue Robinson, the former judge who the NFL and NFLPA have appointed as the mediator for player conduct issues. Now it's up to Robinson to make a decision. The Texans' quickly extricating themselves as players in any of this legal stew should not impact the substance of the evidence presented to Robinson, and thus, it should not affect the magnitude of a punishment, either way.

Do the Texans decide to punish or terminate anyone internally for the accusations by Buzbee?
This is an interesting one. In the statement from the McNairs on Friday, they specifically say that their settlements are not "an admission of wrongdoing," so if the team did nothing wrong, then maybe it's hard to connect the dots to punishing or firing anybody over the team's getting dragged into this mess.

I guess the Texans employees who, at the very least, have had to answer quite a few questions since the first lawsuit was filed against the team would be Roland Ramirez, the team's Director of Player Care who helped arrange Watson's stays at the Houstonian (where several massages in the lawsuits took place), and Brent Naccara, the team's Director of Security who provided Watson with the blank Nondisclosure Agreement that Watson would use in future massages with several therapists. As of today, both are still employed by the Texans. Also, it is worth noting, both team security and medical report up to the team's polarizing Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Jack Easterby, who remains in his role with the team.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast