Deshaun Watson still faces a possibly more problematic civil suit

(Warning: This column contains allegations of sexual misconduct.)

It should come as no surprise that when Houston area attorney Tony Buzbee announced that 20 of his 24 clients had resolved civil lawsuits against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, he spent most of his time talking about one of the plaintiffs who didn’t. he had sorted things out.

Ashley Solis.

Tuesday’s deals are a step towards Watson eventually overcoming this scandal and possibly returning to playing NFL games, but it was by no means the end, or even close to it.

Solis and three other women who accuse Watson of sexual assault, harassment and inappropriate behavior after he hired them for a massage remain. And Solis has always had a particularly strong case, and therefore ugly and potentially dangerous for Watson.

It was Solis who had an established and professional massage therapy business. It was Solis who was contacted out of the blue by Watson via Instagram. It is Solis who describes gruesome preparation for the encounter, claiming that Watson asked if she would be alone before lying naked on the massage table with only a small towel and repeatedly direct contact with the groin area and then with the penis.

It is Solis who testified that she abruptly stopped the meeting and cried in front of Watson, which Watson recognized under oath, describing Solis as “with tears in her eyes”. It’s Solis who got an apology message from Watson, but also one that Solis considered threatening if she talked about the meeting.

“I know you have a career and a reputation,” wrote Watson. “And I know you would hate someone messing with yours, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

It is Solis that Buzbee hopes attention will remain on.

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Buzbee wrote in a statement. “Her case has not been solved and therefore the story of her and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other registry obligations and the court’s schedule. “

Although 20 of 24 civil lawsuits against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson have been resolved, the first and potentially most troublesome for him remains. (Photo AP / Ron Schwane)

In other words, the very compelling case of Ashley Solis remains and eventually the court will hear it, likely in 2023.

Watson can figure out how to fix it or risk the NFL delaying its disciplinary decision or being swayed by fear of headlines and potential details that will come if it ever reaches court. The league said Tuesday that the settlements “had no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” according to spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Watson’s situation will ultimately go to former federal judge Sue L. Robinson to determine if a violation has occurred. If Robinson believes there was one, then she would recommend punishment, even if Commissioner Roger Goodell, or a nominee, ultimately makes the final decision.

This is as much a public relations situation for the league as it is a discipline for the players. As such, the NFL would understandably be concerned with imposing a punishment that seems light if more details emerge or an actual process occurs that impacts public sentiment.

Or Goodell could put Watson on the commissioner’s list of exemptions, which would put Watson on indefinite paid leave and a possible ruling could come later.

As this dragged on and continued dripping, dripping, dripping detail and lawsuits emerged, the situation for Watson’s future in the NFL has become more dire. Where a six or eight game suspension once seemed more likely, now hardly anyone is ruling out an entire season.

Financially, Watson would only be slightly affected by the NFL punishment. His contract with Cleveland is structured to protect as much money as possible. His $ 45 million signing bonus can’t be touched and his base pay of $ 1.035 million would match per game.

However, 26-year-old Watson, after being held back from Houston for the 2021 season, doesn’t want to miss another full season of his prime. And Cleveland, which has pledged considerable financial resources, draft picks and PR to acquire Watson, doesn’t want to lose him by 2022 when it has a roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl.

Yet here we are still.

Yes, 20 out of 24 cases have disappeared, the obstacle overcome by Watson. Yet those that remain are still potentially problematic, especially Solis.

“The case against Deshaun Watson began with a phone call from a brave and strong woman,” Buzbee said in a statement.

It is likely to end with that same woman.

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