Tagged in: settle

Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson agrees to settle 3 more lawsuits as discipline ruling expected Monday

Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and players’ union, is expected to issue a decision Monday on whether Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, Watson has agreed to settle three of the remaining four active civil lawsuits against him, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr early Monday morning.

If Robinson, a former U.S. district judge, imposes any punishment, either side will have three days to submit an appeal in writing.

In that case, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL Players Association already made it clear in a statement Sunday night that it won’t appeal.

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“In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the union said in a statement.

“First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former Federal Judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL — held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially. Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”

Robinson heard arguments from the league, union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing held in her home state of Delaware in late June. The sides conversed a potential settlement all the way up through the hearing but could not agree to a deal.

The league and Watson’s side did engage in further settlement talks in recent days, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but neither side ever felt they were close to an agreement. The most Watson’s side indicated it was willing to offer was a suspension in the range of six to eight matches, according to sources. The best the league indicated it was willing to offer was a 12-game suspension and a significant fine — in the range of $8 million, sources said.

Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women.

The encounters cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021, while Watson was a member of the Houston Texans.

One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped following a judge’s ruling in April 2021 that plaintiffs needed to amend their petitions to disclose their names. In June, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he was facing; on Monday, he agreed to settle three of the remaining four, according to Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson.

Last month, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were prepared to make claims against the organization for its alleged role regarding the allegations against Watson.

Although two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year, the NFL has been investigating whether he violated its personal conduct policy since last year. The NFL interviewed Watson over multiple days earlier this summer. The league’s investigators also spoke to several of the women.

Watson has continually denied all wrongdoing and stated he has no regrets for any of his actions during the massage sessions. Watson also said he cooperated with the NFL’s investigation and “answered every question truthfully” that he was asked by the league’s investigators.

The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $230 million and fully guaranteed, the richest deal in NFL history for any player.

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Houston Texans settle claims vs. team in relation to sexual misconduct allegations involving Deshaun Watson

The Houston Texans have reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were prepared to make them against the NFL organization for its alleged role regarding sexual misconduct allegations against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in massage sessions, the attorney for the women, Tony Buzbee, said in a statement Friday.

One of the 30 women already had filed a civil suit against the Texans in June, blaming the team of “enabling Watson’s behavior.” Buzbee said that case is among those being settled.

Buzbee said terms of each of the 30 settlements are confidential.

“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.” In June, Watson settled 20 of 24 lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct when he played for the Texans. He has been accused by 25 women in civil lawsuits of actions ranging from sexual assault to inappropriate behavior during massage sessions. One of those lawsuits was dropped after the judge ruled the petition had to be amended with the plaintiff’s name.

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Buzbee did not reveal the identities of the six other women who were prepared to file claims against the Texans.

“I will have no further comment on the allegations or the Texans’ alleged 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,” Buzbee said in his statement Friday.

Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. Watson has maintained his innocence. The Texans traded Watson to the Browns in March after the first grand jury announced it would not indict him.

NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, is currently weighing whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Watson had a three-day hearing before Robinson in late June, and sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the league has been arguing for a suspension of at least a year.

If Robinson does issue a suspension, Watson will have the option to appeal the penalty to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to the league’s 2020 collective bargaining agreement.

The New York Times reported in June that Watson booked appointments with at least 66 different women over 17 months, from fall 2019 through spring 2021.

The list of 66 includes the 24 women who have filed lawsuits against Watson; a woman who sued Watson but then withdrew the complaint; two women who filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him; at least 15 therapists who issued statements of support for Watson at the request of his lawyers; at least four therapists contracted with the Texans; five women identified by the plaintiffs’ lawyers during the investigation for their lawsuits; and at least 15 other women whose appointments with Watson were confirmed through interviews and records reviewed by the Times.

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