HOUSTON (AP) – An attorney representing two dozen women who have accused Deshaun Watson of sexual assault or harassment said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a chance to “do the right thing” now that the league has appealed a suspension of six games for Cleveland. The Browns quarterback.
“Every sexual assault victim is watching Roger Goodell and the NFL right now. … Mr. Goodell, what are you going to do? It’s never too late to do the right thing,” attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women who sued, said Thursday to Watson for his accusations.
The NFL tried to keep Watson off the field in 2022 and appealed an independent disciplinary official’s decision that it fell short of the league’s recommended penalty.
The appeal gives Goodell or a designee the authority to increase Watson’s sentence. On Thursday, Goodell named former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey as his designee to hear the appeal. Buzbee spoke before the league made the announcement.
Afterward, he told CBS, “I said and I will say, Bravo to the NFL. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
The NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least a year plus a significant fine to appeal the suspension, a person familiar with the file told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is not public knowledge, also said Watson would be required to undergo evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts before he could be reinstated.
Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson issued her ruling Monday. She concluded that Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy after being accused by women of sexual misconduct during massage treatments while playing for Houston.
Watson, who was with the Texans for four seasons before leaving last season and then being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits filed by the women. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints filed by 10 of the women.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing. He continued to practice with the Browns while awaiting resolution of his case.
Ashley Solis, the first woman to file a lawsuit against Watson, sat next to Buzbee as he discussed the case before taking the stand to share her thoughts on the suspension.
Solis took a deep breath and took several seconds to compose herself before recounting the abuse she said she has received since coming forward, including death threats and online harassment that drove her into a deep depression.
“What do the NFL’s actions say to girls who have suffered at the hands of someone in perceived power?” she said “That it’s no big deal. That they don’t care.”
According to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, Watson’s disciplinary case had to go before a jointly appointed disciplinary officer. This was Robinson’s first case since the new CBA was signed in 2020.
Buzbee said she reached out to many of the other women following the news of the suspension and shared some of their reactions Thursday.
“I’m disgusted and heartbroken,” said one of the women. “It’s like we don’t even care. I feel like we’re invisible.”
Buzbee criticized the NFL’s handling of the investigation and said he questioned why one of the first questions asked of his 10 clients who were interviewed by the NFL was, “What were you wearing?”
“We never expected much from the NFL’s investigation. We never expected much from their flawed process,” Buzbee said. “Even though you know you’re going to get slapped in the face, that slap still hurts and it still stings.”
The person familiar with the file told the AP that the league tried to interview all the women, but Buzbee stopped returning messages from NFL investigators.
The league’s investigation, which resulted in a 215-page report, was conducted by two former prosecutors with decades of experience investigating sexual assault cases. Investigators interviewed 49 people, including 12 of the 24 plaintiffs, Watson and third-party witnesses, including witnesses identified by Watson’s attorneys. Investigators also reviewed documentary evidence, including documents provided by Watson’s civil litigation attorney.
Robinson said in his decision, “My credibility determinations are based largely on the credibility of NFL investigators.”
Solís said that he does not regret speaking. She said she’s been helped by letters and emails from strangers expressing their support and will continue to tell her story to make sure young women know they have a voice.
“If someone has ever tried to abuse their status and dominate you, remind them that they chose the wrong person to try,” he said. “That’s exactly what I am: the wrong one. And I’m going to keep showing my face and keep talking as much as I can.”
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this story.
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The lawyer urges Goodell to “do the right thing” by Watson
Source link The lawyer urges Goodell to “do the right thing” by Watson