Sean Pendergast

Does Rusty Hardin's Statement Mean Watson Trade Talks Back On?

Deshaun Watson's camp fired back on Tuesday afternoon.
Deshaun Watson's camp fired back on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Another day, another lawsuit against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Two more, actually. As the accusations continue to pile up, the current (for now) Texans signal caller's camp finally fired back against the slew of accusations of lewd and, if true, highly illegal behavior in a massage-style setting. Here was Watson attorney Rusty Hardin providing the first salvo on behalf of the Texans star quarterback:

STATEMENT BY RUSTY HARDIN

I want to emphasize at the outset that we and Deshaun recognize that sexual assault and harassment are not only unlawful, but morally wrong. It takes courage for women to come forward to report being mistreated, particularly when they attach their names to a lawsuit. We do not take these allegations lightly. However, fairness to the accused is equally as important.

Opposing counsel has orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 “Jane Doe” lawsuits during the past seven days in a manner calculated to inflame the public and malign Deshaun’s otherwise sterling reputation. In addition, the tactic of refusing our requests to confidentially provide the names of the plaintiffs so we can fully investigate their claims makes uncovering the truth extremely difficult. Anonymity is often necessary as a shield for victims but opposing counsel has used it as a sword to publicly humiliate Deshaun before the truth?seeking process can even begin.

I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false. And in the one case in which we have been able to identify a plaintiff, we have strong evidence showing the allegation is false. In January of this year, a woman attempted to blackmail Deshaun by demanding $30,000 in exchange for her “indefinite silence” about what she stated was a consensual encounter. It is our belief this woman is the plaintiff in Cause No. 2021-15613. (Please see the declaration by Bryan Burney below.) This calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.

We have received numerous unsolicited comments in the past week from many licensed massage therapists who have worked with Deshaun in recent years. These women describe him as a gentleman and a model client who never engaged in inappropriate conduct. Indeed, before these salacious claims, everyone who associated with Deshaun described him as an outstanding, respectful, and compassionate man.

Again, we are taking the allegations very seriously and we ask only that people not rush to judgment, that people not be unduly influenced by opposing counsel’s antics, and that they let fundamental fairness to both sides rule the day. Thank you for your patience and understanding.


If we are to ascertain Hardin's likely strategy in defending Deshaun Watson, the key components appear to be (1) the spectacle that comes with a Tony Buzbee-filed lawsuit (or 16 of them, as of Tuesday evening) and (2) the counter-allegation that one of the most graphic lawsuits, Lawsuit No. 3 of the 16 filed, was actually a consensual encounter that ended up in an extortion attempt.

Here is Brian Burney, Watson's marketing representative, on the plaintiff who may have extorted Watson following a massage encounter:


DECLARATION OF BRYAN BURNEY

1. My name is Bryan Burney. I am the marketing manager for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, and have had this role for more than three years. I have personal knowledge of the facts stated in this declaration; they are true and correct.

2. In mid-January 2021, I spoke with an individual who I believe is the Plaintiff, identified as “Jane Doe,” in Jane Doe v. Deshaun Watson, Cause No. 2021-15613, currently pending in Harris County, Texas. It is clear to me that the person I spoke with met with Deshaun on December 28, 2020, the same day that Jane Doe contends in her petition that she met with Deshaun. When I spoke with Ms. Doe in January, she stated that she wanted a “settlement” from Deshaun, though what exactly she wished to “settle” was not clear to me.

3. During my discussions with Ms. Doe, I questioned the factual basis for the “settlement” that she was requesting from Deshaun. Ms. Doe informed me that she was asking to be paid $30,000 for what she referred to as “indefinite silence” about her encounter with Deshaun. I asked her what she would be silent about and whether anything had happened with Deshaun against her will. She confirmed that everything that occurred was consensual during her encounter with Deshaun. I asked Ms. Doe why Deshaun should pay for silence regarding something that was consensual – whatever it was. She said that it was a matter that both she and Deshaun would wish to keep secret and that she would need to be paid for her “silence.”

4. After my conversation with Ms. Doe, I received a call from a man purporting to be her “business manager.” Ms. Doe’s business manager told me that her encounter with Deshaun would be embarrassing if revealed and that Deshaun should pay to keep the matter secret.

5. I told this individual that his demand to be paid for not revealing a consensual interaction between two adults was extortion.

6. He responded, “It’s not extortion, it’s blackmail.”

7. I informed this individual that Deshaun would not be paying the $30,000 requested.

8. In the years that I have known Deshaun, I have known him to be a respectful, decent human being. I do not believe him capable of the conduct that “Jane Doe” has anonymously accused him of in this case. This conduct is also completely inconsistent with multiple statements made by Jane Doe and by her “business manager,” indicating that her encounter with Deshaun involved only consensual activity.

Additionally, for the 16 massage therapists that have filed lawsuits against Watson, Hardin claims there are far more massage therapists who will speak to watson's professionalism and courtesy. So this raises the question "Is this enough for QB-needy NFL teams to begin attempting to engage the Texans in trade talks again?"

Count the Houston Chronicle's John McClain among those who thinks teams have never really abandoned the idea of trading for Watson, who reportedly has requested a trade for the better part of the last month or so. In fact, McClain states as fact the idea that the Texans, who have been outwardly steadfast in their desire to keep Watson, were hoping to create a bidding war for the fifth year quarterback:

Before the civil lawsuits were filed against Watson this week, the Texans were planning to get multiple teams competing for the quarterback. They were hoping to receive three first-round draft choices, two second-round picks and at least on defensive starter in a trade sometime before the draft.
Right now, teams like the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos are closely monitoring the Watson news cycle, and likely hoping for any shred of positive news on the legal front, allowing them to start calling Texans GM Nick Caserio again, hoping they catch him on the day where he will be ready and willing to engage in trade talks for Watson.

For the first time in a tumultuous week, Tuesday provided the first ray of hope that the skies may open, the dark clouds of litigation may subside, and trade suitors might be able to pry Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast