Deshaun Watson and the NFL’s Stance on Sexual Assault

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos (Flickr)


In a move that shocked the sports realm, Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee filed a lawsuit against Houston Texans superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson on March 16, 2021.  Buzbee alleged that Watson had assaulted four former massage therapists, according to Buzbee’s Instagram page. By April 5, that number grew to 22 separate civil lawsuits with claims of sexual misconduct, indecent exposure, and sexual assault. 

A year later, on March 11, NFL Insider Adam Schefter broke the news that Watson would not face criminal charges. The announcement caused a cascade of support and disappointment across social media and sports talk shows. 

In a USA Today article on Watson’s situation, Kenneth Williams, a law professor, stated that the lack of indictment “simply means that the prosecutor and grand jury did not believe there was sufficient evidence to move forward.” After hearing this statement, some believed that Watson should be exonerated and allowed to return to the field of play. Others, however, pointed out that in cases involving sexual assault, an overwhelming amount of them do not result in conviction or incarceration. 

After the initial report about Watson not facing criminal charges, a race to acquire the quarterback quickly ensued. Before the first accusation last year, the Texans’ quarterback had requested a trade after years of losing and mismanagement. The Houston organization decided to hold off on trading him this season due to the legal situation. 

Of the teams vying for the star player, the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints finished as his top choices. Due to a no-trade clause, Watson could pick his destination. Though he initially declined the Browns, Watson made a stunning turnaround and agreed to a five-year, $230 million offer to go to Cleveland, according to Adam Schefter. 

Deals in the National Football League are usually structured so that a player is guaranteed a certain amount of money upfront, but they have to earn the other portion of it. For example, superstar wide receiver Davante Adams signed a five-year, $141.25 million contract with the Raiders, but only the first $67.5 million is guaranteed. 

Watson’s contract is so interesting because all of the money is guaranteed. Although he is not the highest-paid player in NFL history, his contract has the most guaranteed money in the league’s history. 

The Browns also structured his contract to receive a $45 million signing bonus, but in the first year of his deal, his base salary is only $1 million. This way, should Watson get suspended by the NFL, he loses much less money for the games missed. 

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