NFL-Watson denies assault allegations in first news conference with Browns

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars - NFL International Series
NFL Football - Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 3, 2019 Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson at the end of the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/Files

March 25, 2022

By Rory Carroll

(Reuters) – Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson denied sexually assaulting or acting in an inappropriate manner towards any of the 22 women who have made complaints against him as he held his first news conference on Friday since being traded.

Watson’s move from the Houston Texans to the Browns last week stunned many Cleveland fans but the organization has emphasized that it did its due diligence into the 26-year-old and said they were comfortable with him.

“I understand the whole circumstances are very difficult, especially for the women side of the fans in this community,” Watson said.

“I’m not naive to that. I know these allegations are very, very serious.

“But, like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised by a single parent mom.

“I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone and everything around me. I’ve always defended that and will continue to stand on that.

“I just want the opportunity to be able to show who I am in the community and be hands on and serve other people.”

This month two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson.

He also faces 22 civil lawsuits and remains under NFL investigation for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, which could lead to a suspension.

The Browns said they did not reach out to any of his accusers directly because the team’s lawyers said that would be considered interfering with the criminal investigation.

Instead the team relied on private investigators during what it called a “five-month odyssey” and in the end said they were comfortable with Watson, who signed a five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns.

“Once we got comfortable with Deshaun the person it became pretty straightforward from a football perspective,” Browns General Manager Andrew Berry said.

“We think he’s one of the best players at the position in the sport. He’s obviously in his prime, and we think it’s the most important position in the sport.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris)