It has been some time since I've been a regular here at DBN but I have always continued to read the site for my Browns news. And now that the biggest Browns news since perhaps the Return is upon us, I have returned to share some thoughts.
Trading for DeShaun Watson was a colossal mistake and always was from the beginning, It will be a mistake even if he does play this year and plays well. It will be a mistake if he takes us to the playoffs. It will be a mistake even if he helps win us a Super Bowl.
Deshaun Watson has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 30 women (that's the number the Houston Texans settled with), 24 of which sued him, leading him to settle those civil cases with 23 of them. A look at the evidence shows a troubling pattern of suspicious behavior; an unbiased look clearly indicates that, more likely than not, Watson is guilty of these actions.
As the two grand juries that passed on indicting Watson on 10 of the women's accusations demonstrate, "More likely than not" is not the burden of proof in a court of law, nor should it be. It was always going to be difficult to get a criminal indictment on these cases, as it always is on these sort of "He said, She said" cases (or this this case a "he said - she said she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said" case). It is simply supremely difficult to gather enough evidence to meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt in these sort of investigations.
What we know is that Watson has been accused since March 2021, and still has not been able to offer any explanation as to what happened and why he needed to see so many different massage therapists. He lied about how many women he hired, claiming to have hired 40 women over the last five years but the New York Times showed that it was at least 66 just between Fall 2019 and Spring 2021.
Watson insisted that he hired these women just for massages but in interviews these women, including ones that haven't sued, say he was clearly looking for sex. Watson's lawyer has since had to admit that Watson did have sex with some of these women, including 3 that have sued him.
If Watson really just needed massages he could have gone through any number of legitimate channels, he is a millionaire athlete, the resources available to him in the area of physical therapy are legion. Instead, as shown in that damning NYT report, he used Instagram and other social media apps to message amateurs telling them he was just "trying to support black businesses" and buying absurd amounts of their products to apparently help convince them to let him be a client.
When not using social media he used a middleman, Dionne Louis, a spa owner. Watson paid her $5,000 for "spa equipment" and she began connecting him with women to give him massages. Despite this, Louis still acknowledged Watson's actions in text messages:
In June 2020, one woman said in her suit, Louis drove her to a hotel to meet Watson for a massage, during which he groped her and touched her hand with his penis. Louis was not in the room, but in text messages she later sent to this woman, she appeared to refer to Watson treating her employees poorly: "I been talking to Deshaun I just told his ass off he got it now." Louis added in a second message, "I told him he can’t treat us black women any kind of way."
Watson's own text messages show he knew these women were upset:
In a deposition on May 13, he was asked about the text message he sent to Ashley Solis, one of his accusers, immediately after their appointment in March 2020. "Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable," he wrote to her. Watson acknowledged that Solis was "teary-eyed" at the end of their session, but testified under oath that he still does not understand why.
Deshaun Watson is almost certainly a sexual creep. And the Browns willingly gave up 3 first round draft picks and a mountain of money for him to be the face of the franchise. The reason why is obvious: The Bengals have the best QB prospect since Luck in Joe Burrow and the Ravens have one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL at the position with Lamar Jackson. Other teams in the conference have Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert. The Browns feared they couldn't compete with that with Baker Mayfield at the helm. That makes their actions perhaps understandable, they are not excusable. To reward a man for being a predator is immoral, to make him the face of a franchise with millions of devoting fans and representing the great city of Cleveland, is insulting.
We will see what happens with Roger Goodell's ridiculous kangaroo court masquerading as a "process" over the next few days. If Watson is heavily suspended and then goes to court, the Browns will be dealing with this embarrassing and shameful chapter for the next year or more.
I feel sorry for all the good and honest players on this team, who don't deserve to be associated with this mess, and who I will continue to root for every Sunday. And the fans, who will almost certainly feel the need to defend their beloved team due to rank tribalism, but actually should be angry at that very team for putting them in this position at all. We deserve better. Hopefully, Browns fans will show better judgement than Steeler fans, who were all to willing to turn a blind eye to, and heck openly embraced, the awful man they had under center for a few wins.
I won't feel sorry for the Front Office and the Haslams, they will deserve all the scorn and mockery they get, they earned it. Just as Deshaun earns whatever penalty he ends up facing, no matter how harsh. I will feel no sympathy for either one.
Ironically, after years and years of sitting through those godawful seasons played by those terrible teams, the results of endless mistakes and errors made by the front offices, the cruelest mistake yet may be the one that instead of causing losing simply tarnishes winning.