On Tuesday of last week, Deshaun Watson's camp finally spoke out in something other than haphazard supportive tweets and answers in press conferences (whose purposes had nothing to do with Deshaun Watson). It was Rusty Hardin, Watson's high powered attorney, who did his best to fire a legal missile back at Tony Buzbee, attorney for the sea of plaintiffs suing Deshaun Watson for varying degrees of alleged sexual misconduct in a massage setting.
Hardin called Buzbee's modus operandi "circus-like" and seethed at the lack of disclosure on actual names of the plaintiffs, so that Watson's legal team could begin their research. Right now, it appears, Hardin feels like he is defending Watson from nameless, faceless ghosts, although my guess is they can probably piece together the identity of most of the plaintiff from the dates of massage service in the suit, in conjunction with whatever digital trail exists in Watson's texts and Instagram DM's.
Meanwhile, on the heels of Hardin's statement, Buzbee fired back on Facebook later that night, promising that this was far from the end for accusations against the Texans quarterback:
And with Friday as a "soft deadline" where he promised more smoke, late in the evening on Friday, Buzbee delivered, announcing on Instagram that four more lawsuits had been filed against Watson:
(NOTE: As of this writing, the actual lawsuit documents themselves had not appeared on the website for the Harris County court system.)
A few thoughts, as we await the details on lawsuits 17 through 20:
Public support for Watson has devolved into anxious silence
When these allegations all first came to light, it's not as though there was a massive wave of support coming out for Watson, and that is understandable, given the era we now live in and the risk of victim shaming. We need both sides of the story. However, there were a few players, most notably former Falcons WR Roddy White and a couple of Watson's current teammates (RT Tytus Howard, DE Charles Omenihu), who were very outspoken about "false accusations" (White graphically so, to where he had to apologize). More recently, former teammate Will Fuller and Watson's college coach Dabo Swinney both spoke out in general support of Watson as FRIENDS, as opposed to taking a side in the lawsuits. Both did so as answers to questions in a press conference setting. Since then, there's really been nothing. Those close to Watson appear to be like the rest of us — on pins and needles waiting to see what happens next.
The sheer volume of the lawsuits continue to be the biggest issue
With every legal expert I've spoken with, either publicly on my radio show on SportsRadio 610 or in private conversations, the one thing they bring up as the most problematic part of this for Watson is the sheer math of the volume of alleged victims. As outlined above, it's now up to 20 plaintiffs, so if Watson really didn't do anything wrong (as he claimed in his Twitter response to the first lawsuit filed, he's said nothing publicly himself about the other NINETEEN), is he ready to go to trial with all 20 plaintiffs? And how long might that take? The more this evolves, the more likely it feels that we are heading to some kind of settlement solution, despite Buzbee's contention that "these cases will be resolved in court."
Meanwhile, the NFL is moving on, with a Watson trade unlikely
Over the last two NFL drafts, 2019 and 2020, we'd seen exactly ZERO trades involving a top six overall pick in the draft. Then, on Friday, we got two trades involving top six picks within 25 minutes of each other. In the end, the two deals, one involving the Niners and Dolphins, the other involving the Dolphins and Eagles, shook out like this:
Recapping a wild day:#49ers get: 3rd overall pick in 2021.#Dolphins get: PHI’s No. 6 overall in 2021, PHI’s 5th rounder in 2021, SF’s 1st and 3rd rounders in 2022, SF’s 1st in 2023.#Eagles get: SF’s No. 12 overall, MIA’s 4th rounder in 2021, MIA’s 1st in 2022.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
Wow, can you imagine the rampant Watson speculation that would be going on, if we didn't have these lawsuits hanging over his head? The questions would make for days of talk radio fodder. Is San Fran moving up to get heavy ammo (a trip three pick) to trade to the Texans, along with players like, say, Nick Bosa? Is Miami executing a trade back from the third overall pick to stockpile more draft capital to shower on Nick Caserio in a jumbo Watson offer that includes Tua Tagovailoa? How do the Eagles factor into all this? This is all talk that may still wind up relevant if there's some resolution on Watson's situation, but with each day that goes by, that's one less day until the NFL Draft, which begins April 29.
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