Twenty of the 24 civil lawsuits accusing Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior have been settled, attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the plaintiffs, announced in a statement on Tuesday (June 21).
"The cases against Deshaun Watson started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman. That woman was Ashley Solis," Buzbee said. "At the time of that call she was just one of the hundreds of calls seeking legal assistance that our firm gets weekly. Even though she was originally turned away by our screening process, my staff insisted that I personally speak with her. I'm glad she persisted. Once we took a second look, and after having contact with Watson's original lawyer who disrespected Ashley and her profession and who arrogantly minimized the conduct of someone he referred to as an 'asset,' I was convinced that our law firm should try to help her. As a result of Ashley's lone but brave voice, soon many women who had allegedly experienced the same conduct were emboldened to step forward. I am incredibly proud to represent them all"
NFL officials met with Watson in Texas last month amid the league's ongoing investigation to determine whether Watson violated the NFL's code of conduct.
The initial report of the meeting came after CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reported that Watson planned to host several of his new Browns teammates in the Bahamas days later as part of a bonding session ahead of team-organized activities and the upcoming 2022 NFL season.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the announced settlements have "no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process" regarding Watson.
Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct during massage sessions, however, two Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges and the quarterback has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process.
In March, Schefter reported Watson chose to play for the Browns and waived his no-trade clause ahead of an agreed deal between the Browns and the Houston Texans.
The Browns were initially informed that they were out of the running for Watson on March 17, according to multiple reports.
"Deshaun Watson has decided he wants to play for the Cleveland Browns in a stunning change of events, per sources," Schefter tweeted on March 18. "Watson has informed the Houston Texans that he now is willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract to be dealt to Cleveland."
The former Clemson standout requested a trade from the Texans prior to the allegations surfacing and later being ruled out of every game during the 2021 season for "non-injury reasons/personal matter," though never specifically being suspended or placed on any reserve list.