While all reasonable people can agree that sexually harassing and/or assaulting someone as they're simply trying to earn a living is wrong, wrong, wrong every time it's tried, we also have to be unanimous in agreeing that everyone deserves due process. That right is more than just baked into the American system, it's the fruit filling that makes it worth eating. And it applies to everyone. From the lowliest generational athletic talent to the most elite, celebrated sports blogger.
Where we can differ is on the topic of how many massage therapists is too much. How man different women does one man need to hire before we can all agree he has a masseuse problem. Personally, I've had two in my entire life, and both were in the line of duty. One was a podcast sponsor who wanted me to try their service. The other was an investigation into the Palm Beach Asian Spa industry. Both were done with the utmost professionalism, and both sides exchanged handshakes and 5-star reviews after. So I'm on the side of believing that Deshaun Watson hiring 66 different masseuses in 17 months is, to put it mildly, a bit excessive. That works out to a rounding error of four masseuses a month, or one per week. That we know about. So while it's not my place to judge, I'm judging.
Watson went radio silent after that NY Times piece came out.
Before his contractually obligated press availability happened. And he did what you'd expect him to do when that number was brought up. He took a knee to kill the clock and then punted.
And in court, his lawyer Rusty Hardin is arguing that the whole presumption of innocence thing I alluded to earlier applies not just in the halls of justice, but in the interview room of the police station. That when women came forward to file criminal complaints, it was all the investigating officers' sworn duty to … what? Assume they were lying? Tell them to come up with some proof or throw them out of the building? I mean, any witness statement has to be judged for its veracity and then supported by facts. But a system where the cops automatically presume every complaining witness is sitting there with her pants on fire would make for a hellish world no one would want to live in.
So as all this plays out and no one knows where it's going to end up, the one thing we be certain of is that the future of the Cleveland Browns is riding on it. Until now, I thought they were completely locked on Watson, with no recourse but to ride out the process, thanks to the unprecedented $230 million guaranteed they gave him. That the contract attached them to Watson's fate like an amateur skydiver strapped to the instructor. If Watson lands safely, they've got one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history. If his chute fails, he and they are being sent home in a big ziplock baggie.
But according to at least one legal expert who knows way more than me, that is not the case. The Browns could actually push him out the door and then make a safe landing with the plane:
Sportskeeda - The Browns were aware of the first 23 women who had filed lawsuits. In his contract with the team, it states that he is exempt from suspension “solely in connection with matters disclosed to the club in writing”, which we can assume means the 23 lawsuits. Now that a 24th has come forward, it’s possible that the Browns could void Watson’s contract, since they were not previously aware of this woman. Where there are 24, there are more. It would not be surprising if more women start coming out to tell their stories, considering more than 40 women have said they massaged Watson in the last year and a half. Even one witness who Watson’s own lawyer brought in said she thought Watson was making sexual advances to the massage therapists. It doesn’t help Watson’s case to know that the Houston Texans asked his dates to sign nondisclosure agreements.
If you've ever watched a single episode of a procedural crime show, you've seen how this plays out. They get one of the accused in the interrogation room. Tell them that if they come clean, it'll go easier for them. Then comes the inevitable and dramatic, "But you'd better tell us EVERYTHING." If there's a single crime they neglect to mention or leave out any detail, however small, they're just hanging themselves. The best example ever was Vic Mackey near the series finale of The Shield. After killing snitches, murdering his rivals, stealing millions and running every kind of scam imaginable, he's offered immunity for everything he confesses to, plus a federal job. And the feds look on in horror as they realize they didn't know 2% of what he'd been up to. And he looks at the recorder and asks, "How much memory does that thing got?"
While - and I can't stress this enough - Watson hasn't 'fessed to anything, his contract was guaranteed based on the immunity deal he cut over Lawsuit 1 through Lawsuit 23. Now that we're getting Lawsuits 24 and 25, and the likelihood of more to come, the Browns might have to cut their losses.
If I'm a betting man, I'd say they won't. That they'll ride out the massive PR storm to come, the protests and the clear and present danger of a long term suspension by the league. But if they feel like they can't, they'll have to act fast, void the contract, and prepare for the Baker Mayfield Era 2.0. But with $230 million back in the bank. Stay tuned.