Deshaun Watson wants to be “hands-on” in the Cleveland community — a poor choice of words, perhaps, given the 22 ongoing civil lawsuits against him for sexual misconduct.
At his formal introductory press conference this afternoon, flanked by Browns GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski, Watson insisted again and again to the gathered press that he had never assaulted any woman in his life, saying, “It’s not in my DNA.”
Yesterday, a second grand jury declined to indict Watson on the last criminal charge still on the table, and today the new Browns QB said that he does not plan to settle any of the 22 civil suits. He wants to fight to clear his name. And when asked whether he was saying that nearly two dozen women were lying, why he used 40 different massage therapists, and what work he was willing to do to rebuild his image, he repeated over and over again that he “couldn’t get too far into it because of the investigation,” but that he had “never assaulted anyone in [his] life.”
He’s ready to move on, but he may only be joined in that sentiment by Stefanski, Berry and Browns owners, the Haslams. The GM said that the Browns began looking into Watson five months ago, launching what he referred to as a comprehensive investigation into the former Texans QB, but denying that they had made a decision on Baker Mayfield’s future with the franchise at that time.
Berry said that the organization spoke to people who had known Watson throughout different phases of his life and used “independent investigative resources within the Harris County and Houston law enforcement to get an unbiased, well-rounded perspective on the allegations.”
So “well-rounded,” in fact, that, according to the attorney for the massage therapists, not a single one of the 22 plaintiffs were ever contacted. Their lawyer, Tony Buzbee, said that no NFL teams reached out to him in their so-called “comprehensive evaluation process” of Watson.
We don’t have to keep repeating that the Browns were willing to overlook just about anything to acquire a top-level quarterback, as it’s just blatantly clear at this point. Coach Stefanski can say that he has “empathy for anyone who’s a victim of sexual abuse” all he wants, but that sentiment is really dampened by Berry sitting five feet away, refusing to answer the question of whether their independent investigators reached out to the women who have alleged assault. (Answer: they didn’t.)
Prompted by ESPN’s Jake Trotter, who asked for clarification on whether or not the Browns had spoken to any of the 22 women involved in the lawsuits, Berry replied, “I’m not going to go into necessarily the details of everything the investigators did, but they got a full perspective of all the criminal and civil cases.” He also said the team’s attorneys advised against reaching out to the plaintiffs.
Trotter wasn’t satisfied.
“So if they didn’t speak to any of the women, what is the basis for you calling your investigation extensive, as you put it Sunday, and also given the fact that some of the women haven’t given sworn testimony yet? They don’t have anything on the record.”
Here was Berry’s response to that:
“So again, Jake, I’ll refer back to my statement. The independent and unbiased investigators were able to be comprehensive in all the information they were able to bring forth. Some of the information, quite honestly, I understand can’t necessarily be public, but we do feel good about the work that we did. We feel good about the work investigators did for us. We got a comprehensive perspective of all the cases.”
Well, not the 22 women’s perspectives, clearly.
Berry kept repeating the line that the Browns were comfortable and confident in “Deshaun as a person.” They didn’t have to do too much examination into Deshaun as a Football Player, but after what Stefanski called “a tremendous amount of background,” which, again, allegedly did not include speaking to any of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, but did include speaking to his former teammates and coaches from Houston and Clemson, they decided that Watson’s off-the-field record could be overlooked in favor of his on-field records.
Let’s be real here. The Browns were never going to come to a conclusion that Watson “as a person” wasn’t the right fit for their organization. His talent spoke for itself there, and everything else can be swept under the rug. Berry, though mindfully sensitive due to the nature of the allegations, clearly wants to move on from this, though he did say that the Browns would cooperate with any NFL investigation.
As for Watson? He wants to “get back to the person that people knew I was before these allegations.”