Deshaun Watson: The NFL Prioritizes Profits Over Victims of Sexual Predators

One of the main stories coming out at the beginning of the NFL season this year is the 11-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. The suspension is the result of investigations that have shown that Watson engaged in predatory sexual behavior – preying on massage therapists by either demanding or forcing them to perform sexual acts on him during appointments.

Twenty-four different massage therapists have filed civil lawsuits against Watson, accusing him of sexual misconduct. He has settled with 23 of them. The New York Times also found that over the course of a 17-month period while Watson was a quarterback for the Houston Texans, he made appointments with 66 different female massage therapists, some of whom have now come out anonymously saying that Watson preyed on them as well.

Watson has shown no remorse throughout the process, constantly professing his innocence that these encounters were consensual and showing no self-awareness or empathy for the victims of the disgusting behavior he engaged in. This has been mirrored by Watson’s lawyer, who has defended Watson’s innocence in interviews saying that that “happy endings” are not illegal. 

The investigations and events that have followed have revealed the deep complicity of Watson’s teams and the NFL in his behavior. The New York Times investigation also found that the Houston Texans helped Watson in booking locations for the massage appointments and even provided Watson with non-disclosure agreement (NDA) forms for Watson to use after a massage therapist threatened to expose his behavior.

Most of this information was in the public sphere when the Browns then decided to sign Watson in March 2022 to one of the largest contracts in NFL history (5 years, $230 million). Knowing that Watson might be suspended pending the results of an NFL investigation into his behavior, the Browns intentionally structured Watson’s contract so that he received most of the guaranteed money on his contract in a signing bonus so that if he were suspended without pay, he would lose out on less money.

This process has culminated in an 11-game suspension which is a laughable slap on the wrist given what Watson has done. Watson will play again this year and the Browns are planning on having him be their franchise quarterback for years to come. Clearly trying to rationalize the situation, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said in a recent interview that “it’s important to remember that Deshaun is only 26 and is a high-level quarterback.”

This symbolizes the attitudes of NFL owners in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter what Watson did, what matters is he is a high-level quarterback who will help the Browns to win and bring money into the franchise. That is all that NFL owners seem to care about, not about the victims of sexual predators.