(Warning: This column contains allegations of sexual harassment.)
It’s no surprise that when Houston District Attorney Tony Busby announced that 20 of his 24 clients had settled civil suits against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshawn Watson, he spent most of his time talking about one of the plaintiffs who didn’t settle. .
Tuesday’s settlement is a move for Watson to eventually get over this scandal and possibly return to play NFL games, but it was by no means the end or even close to it.
Solis and three other women who allege sexual harassment, harassment and inappropriate behavior by Watson after he hired them for massages remain. And Solis always had a particularly strong case – and therefore ugly and potentially dangerous for Watson.
It was Solis who had a well-established professional massage business. Watson unexpectedly contacted Solis via Instagram. It is Solis who describes the eerie preparations for the meeting, claiming that Watson asked if she would be alone before stretching out naked on a massage table with a small hand towel and repeatedly making contact to the groin area and then to the penis.
It was Solis who testified that she abruptly ended the meeting and wept in front of Watson, which Watson admitted under oath, calling Solis “with tears in her eyes”. It was Solis who received an apology text message from Watson, but also one that Solis took as a threat if she revealed the meeting.
“I know you have a career and a reputation,” Watson wrote. “And I know you wouldn’t want anyone to mess with yours, just as I don’t want anyone to mess with mine.”
Buzby hopes Solis will be the focus.
“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Buzby said in a statement. “Her case is undecided and so her story and the story of three other brave women will continue. I look forward to hearing these cases in due course, in accordance with other obligations and the court’s schedule.”
In other words, the very compelling case of Ashley Solis remains and will eventually be heard in court, probably in 2023.
Watson can either figure out how to settle the matter or risk the NFL either delaying a disciplinary decision or being swayed by fear of headlines and potential details if the case ever goes to court. The league said on Tuesday that the settlement “did not affect the collectively agreed disciplinary process,” spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
The Watson situation will eventually be taken to former federal judge Sue L. Robinson to determine if there was a violation. If Robinson believes he was, then she then recommends punishment, although in the end, the final decision will be made by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person appointed by him.
For the league, this is the same situation with the public as with the discipline of the players. As such, the NFL will understandably be concerned about what appears to be a light penalty if further details emerge or an actual trial takes place that affects public opinion.
Or Goodell could put Watson on the commissioner’s release list, which would put Watson on indefinite paid leave, with a final decision to be made later.
As this dragged on and a steady stream of details and lawsuits emerged, the situation for Watson’s future in the NFL became even more dire. Where a six- or eight-game suspension seemed most likely before, now almost no one rules out a whole season.
Financially, the NFL punishment would only marginally affect Watson. His contract with Cleveland is structured to protect as much money as possible. His $45 million signing bonus cannot be changed, and his $1.035 million base salary will be game dependent.
However, the 26-year-old Watson, after Houston lasted through the 2021 season, doesn’t want to miss another season of his prime. And Cleveland, which has pledged significant cash, draft picks and public relations assets to acquire Watson, doesn’t want to lose him in 2022, when he has a Super Bowl-capable squad.
However, we are still here.
Yes, 20 out of 24 cases disappeared, Watson crossed the barrier. However, those that remain are still potentially problematic, especially Solis.
“The case against Deshawn Watson began with one phone call from one brave and strong woman,” Buzby said in a statement.
Most likely, everything will end with the same woman.