Deshaun Watson: What comes next


Credit: Bella Schreiber

WSPN’s Bella Schreiber discusses the timeline for Deshaun Watson’s suspension and recent sexual misconduct allegations.

Bella Schreiber

Until he was accused of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment by various massage therapists in 2020, 2021 and 2022, Deshaun Watson was the star quarterback for the Houston Texans. Watson played for Clemson University in college and was drafted by the Texans in 2017. He was later benched during the entire season of 2021 and was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2022, but he is yet to play this season. Adding to over 20 cases, Watson is currently facing an 11-game suspension for his breach of the NFL personal conduct policy, as well as a $5 million fine and mandatory counseling. Watson will not be cleared to play after his suspension ends unless he is also cleared by clinicians, who say he is making progress in the right direction. Following his suspension and the accusations against him, Watson received the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history with the Browns. Watson will receive a guaranteed $230 million over the course of five years.

March, 2021
On March 16, lawyer and politician Tony Buzbee announced on Instagram that he was working with people who had no “perceived power” and that he was filing a lawsuit against Deshaun Watson. In the following days, Buzbee filed 14 lawsuits against Watson revolving around sexual misconduct with massage therapists. By March 31, there were 21 lawsuits piled up against Watson. While this was happening, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin, quickly worked to obtain and release statements from 18 different massage therapists who said their experiences were different than those of the accusers.

April, 2021
On April 2, a police report was filed against Watson, and the Houston Police Department launched an investigation. Throughout the month, women including Ashley Solis and Laura Baxley, the first two women to identify themselves, began publicly speaking out. By April, the court had ordered for most of the women to identify themselves, and all but one came forward. The one other woman decided to remain anonymous and drop the case. By April 16, the NFL had started investigating and the Houston Police Department was working on at least two criminal complaints against Watson. On April 29, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked publicly for the first time about Watson, and he said the NFL takes those types of allegations “very seriously.”

March, 2022
A grand jury decided on March 11 that Watson would not be criminally charged. At the same time, the NFL was still investigating whether or not he had violated its personal conduct policy, but until it came to a conclusion, Watson would not be punished since he was not criminally charged. Quickly following, on March 18, the Browns traded for Watson. The Browns accompanied the news of the trade with a statement about its decision. The team expressed its awareness of the sensitivity of the situation, but the team also said it had an in-depth talk with him about his behavior. In its statement, the team discussed Watson’s leadership and priorities for both on and off the field and are excited for its new journey with him.

June, 2022
In June, Watson’s former team, the Houston Texans were roped into the ongoing accusations. The Texans were said to have provided Watson with a non-disclosure agreement to give to the massage therapists, enabling his inappropriate behavior by continuing to help him get massages at certain hotels. It was discovered that Watson had booked over 60 massage therapists in the span of only 17 months between 2019 and 2021.

August, 2022
On Aug. 1, retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson issued Watson a suspension for just six games, compared to the NFL’s original suggestion of the entire 2022 season. Only two days later, the NFL appealed its decision and again wanted to suspend him for the entire season. On Aug. 18, they settled on an 11-game suspension with a $5 million fine donated to non-profits to help educate people on sexual misconduct and harassment, and the NFL required mandatory counseling for Watson.

October, 2022
On Oct. 10 Watson returned to the Browns training facility, but he wasn’t able to practice with the team. However, he was permitted to work out with training and medical staff, attend meetings and go to individual meetings with the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.

November, 2022
Starting on Nov. 14, Watson returned to practicing fully with the team, as his suspension nears its end. He has been getting reps, and he is supposedly looking good for his return at the end of his 11-game suspension.

December, 2022
On Dec. 4, Watson will be able to play in his first regular season NFL game since Jan. 3, 2021. During this game, the Browns will face Watson’s former team, the Texans.