(Warning: This column accommodates allegations of sexual misconduct.)
It needs to be a bit of shock that when Houston-area lawyer Tony Buzbee introduced that 20 of his 24 purchasers had settled civil lawsuits in opposition to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, he spent more often than not speaking about one of many plaintiffs who hadn’t resolved issues .
Tuesday’s settlements are a step towards Watson finally shifting previous this scandal and maybe returning to play NFL video games, nevertheless it was certainly not the tip, and even near it.
Solis and three different ladies who allege sexual assault, harassment and inappropriate conduct from Watson after he employed them for therapeutic massage work stay. And Solis has at all times had a very sturdy case – and thus an unpleasant and doubtlessly harmful one for Watson.
It was Solis who had a longtime, skilled massage-therapy enterprise. It was Solis who was contacted out of the blue by Watson by way of Instagram. It’s Solis who describes a creepy run-up to the assembly, alleging Watson inquired if she could be alone earlier than sprawling out bare on the therapeutic massage desk with only a small hand towel and repeatedly directing contact to the groin space after which penis.
It’s Solis who testified she ended the assembly abruptly and cried in entrance of Watson, which Watson acknowledged beneath oath, describing Solis as “teary-eyed.” It’s Solis who obtained an apologetic textual content message from Watson, but additionally one which Solis took as threatening ought to she converse up concerning the encounter.
“I do know you might have a profession and a fame,” Watson wrote. “And I do know you’d hate for somebody to mess with yours, similar to I do not need anybody messing with mine.”
It’s Solis on whom Buzbee is hoping the main target stays.
“Ashley Solis is among the heroes of this story,” Buzbee wrote in an announcement. “Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the opposite three courageous ladies will proceed. I stay up for making an attempt these circumstances in the end, according to different docket obligations and the courtroom’s schedule. “
In different phrases, the very compelling case of Ashley Solis stays and finally the courtroom will hear it, most likely in 2023.
Watson can both determine the right way to settle that one, or threat the NFL both delaying its disciplinary resolution or being influenced out of concern of the headlines and potential particulars that can come if it ever reaches courtroom. The league said Tuesday that the settlements had “no influence on the collectively bargained disciplinary course of,” per spokesman Brian McCarthy.
The Watson scenario will finally go to former federal decide Sue L. Robinson to find out if a violation occurred. If Robinson believes there was one, then she would then advocate a punishment, though ultimately will probably be commissioner Roger Goodell, or a designee, making the ultimate dedication.
That is as a lot a public relations scenario for the league as a participant self-discipline one. As such, the NFL would understandably be involved about levying a punishment that appears mild if additional particulars come out, or an precise trial happens impacting public sentiment.
Or Goodell might put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt checklist, which might place Watson on indefinite paid go away and an eventual ruling might come later.
As this has dragged on and a continued drip, drip, drip of particulars and lawsuits have emerged, the scenario for Watson’s NFL future has grown extra dire. The place a six- or eight-game suspension as soon as appeared most definitely, nearly nobody is ruling out a complete season now.
Financially, Watson could be solely flippantly impacted by the NFL’s punishment. His Cleveland contract is structured to guard as a lot cash as attainable. His $ 45 million signing bonus cannot be touched, and his base pay of $ 1,035 million could be on a game-by-game foundation.
Nonetheless, the 26-year-old Watson, after being held out by Houston for the 2021 season, does not need to miss one other complete season of his prime. And Cleveland, which has dedicated appreciable financial, draft decide and public relations belongings to amass Watson, does not need to lose him for 2022 when it has a roster able to competing for a Tremendous Bowl.
But right here we’re nonetheless.
Sure, 20 of 24 circumstances are gone, the hurdle cleared by Watson. But those that stay are nonetheless doubtlessly problematic, particularly Solis.
“The case in opposition to Deshaun Watson began with one cellphone name, from one courageous and robust lady,” Buzbee mentioned in an announcement.
It is more likely to finish with that very same lady.