The 24th lawsuit filed against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson opens with general allegations regarding Watson’s alleged habit of securing massages via Instagram. One specific excerpt from the first page of the complaint stands out.
“Defendant Deshaun Watson has a disturbing pattern of conduct,” the complaint contends. “Each of the cases against him is strikingly similar, evidencing a habit or custom: Watson seeks out random strangers on Instagram, as he has done more than a hundred times.”
More than a hundred times. Presumably, there’s evidence to support that claim. Evidence that likely comes from efforts to develop relevant facts in the other cases.
If it’s true that Watson has used social media to secure “more than a hundred” massages from “random strangers,” that’s a dynamic about which the league office clearly should be concerned. Regardless of the specific allegations and defenses in each of the various cases, these circumstances — combined with the recent efforts of attorney Rusty Hardin to normalize the practice of receiving and/or seeking “happy endings” — paint a troubling picture. One that tends to support if not confirm the general notion that Watson combined his immense fame with the relative anonymity of social media to create a system for seeking not legitimate massages but sexual encounters.
It’s a “know it when you see it” situation. Hardin can pick nits and/or quibble over details. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Watson had a well-established habit of seeking out massages from strangers. Now, 24 of those strangers have sued him for the things he said and did during those massage sessions.
The league continues to investigate. To ponder. To weigh the appropriate punishment to recommend, a decision that will spark an independent disciplinary process.
In late March, the Commissioner took paid leave off the table, even though some in the league office believe Watson should be sidelined with pay until the various civil cases are resolved. Based on recent developments (specifically, the two new lawsuits and the comments made on Friday by Hardin), perhaps it’s time for the Commissioner to reconsider his position on leave with pay.
If, as alleged in the latest lawsuit, Watson has used social media to arrange more than 100 massages with “random strangers” and if, as Hardin seems to suggest, Watson’s defense will include …….