The Houston Texans were formally named as defendants Monday in the ongoing civil litigation involving their former quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who is accused of sexually harassing or assaulting dozens of women during massage sessions.
"Today we filed the first case of what will likely be many against the Houston Texans related to Deshaun Watson's behavior. Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson's behavior is incredibly damning," said Tony Buzbee, the Houston attorney who at one time represented 25 different women with lawsuits against Watson, as reported by ESPN. "We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson's conduct. Beyond that, we believe the filing speaks for itself," Buzbee said.
According to ESPN's Jake Trotter and John Barr, Monday's lawsuit provides the most detailed account yet of what, if any, prior knowledge personnel within the Texans organization had regarding the behavior of Watson, now with the Cleveland Browns.
- states that In November 2020 Watson used Instagram to meet and arrange a massage with the plaintiff, even though she was only a massage therapy student at the time and Watson could have arranged a massage with a more experienced therapist through the Texans. (Watson ultimately met the woman at her mother's home in Manvel, Texas, brought his own small towel to the massage and, according to the lawsuit, proceeded to expose himself and sexually assault her.)
- describes Watson's behavior as being part of a "disturbing, predatory, and incriminating pattern with a multitude of female victims."
- alleges the Texans had at least some knowledge of Watson's habit of seeking multiple massages with strangers he met on Instagram. The organization learned this, according to the lawsuit, from the owner of Genuine Touch Massage Clinic, a Sugar Land, Texas, massage therapy business that identifies the Texans as a client on its website.
"Despite having a full training staff available to him with the Texans, and despite having the services of a specified massage therapy entity — Genuine Touch — available to him, Deshaun Watson refused to have massages done at the Texans stadium and instead preferred to reach out to strangers on Instagram for massages," the lawsuit states.
As early as June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Genuine Touch owner Joni Honn "complained to the Texans that Watson was seeking out unqualified strangers for massages via Instagram," according to the lawsuit. "Her stated concern to the Texans was that Watson was putting himself in danger of contracting Covid, or getting himself sued."
The lawsuit says that Genuine Touch "was also aware that at least one of its therapists had, and another was having, sexual relations with Watson during massage sessions."
"Despite this behavior, and after yet another woman questioned Watson's behavior and threatened to expose Watson on the internet, the Houston Texans organization — rather than investigate and address Watson's disturbing behavior — instead provided Watson with a NDA to 'protect himself' going forward from the random women he was finding on Instagram," the lawsuit states.
Monday's lawsuit provides a detailed explanation of the origins of the nondisclosure agreement Watson had massage therapists sign.
The lawsuit states that Watson "admitted that Brent Naccara, a former Secret Service agent and the Texans' director of security, provided the NDA to Watson."
Naccara provided the NDA to Watson, the lawsuit states, after a woman named Nia Smith made an Instagram post in November 2020. According to the lawsuit, Watson had engaged in sexual misconduct during a massage with Smith, which prompted Smith to include Watson's photo on an Instagram post with the message: "I could really expose you."
"Watson used the NDA for multiple massage sessions from random women he found on Instagram, telling the women that in order to get paid she needed to sign the Texans' NDA," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges Watson sexually assaulted women during massage sessions at the Houstonian Hotel, in a room the Texans helped Watson secure, and that the team provided Watson with a massage table.
"We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today," the Texans said in a statement, as reported by ESPN. "Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization."
The NFL declined to comment on Monday's lawsuit.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported over the weekend that Watson's hearing before the NFL and NFL Players Association's jointly appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Robinson will listen as the NFL expects to push for a "lengthy" suspension for Watson, according to Schefter. Once Robinson rules, Watson will have the option to appeal. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell then could either rule on that appeal or call on an independent ruler.
The NFL, Watson and the NFLPA engaged in settlement talks that would have averted a hearing, but they were unable to reach a settlement. One source told ESPN's Dan Graziano that in those talks the league would never move off of its position that the suspension should be for a full season.
The league interviewed Watson over multiple days earlier this summer as part of its investigation.
"I did everything they asked me to do. I answered every question truthfully that the NFL asked me," Watson said earlier this month. "I spent hours with the people they brought down. That's all I can do, is be honest and tell them exactly what happened. They have a job, and so I have to respect that. And that's what we want to do is cooperate. They have to make a decision that's best for the league."
Watson has maintained that he is innocent, despite numerous allegations made against him of inappropriate sexual conduct during massage sessions. Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year.
Monday's lawsuit also included more information about the criminal investigation of Watson. Houston police detective Kamesha Baker, the lead detective in Watson's case, testified in a civil deposition that Watson's behavior was "escalating," with each massage session and that the woman who sued the Texans on Monday had "a really powerful and compelling account." That woman's report was one of 10 reports that ultimately were investigated by Houston Police, Baker acknowledged in her deposition. When asked in her deposition "... was there any doubt in your mind as the investigating officer that a crime had occurred," Baker replied: "No," according to ESPN.
Last week, Buzbee said 20 of the 24 women with active lawsuits against Watson had agreed to settle their lawsuits. Ashley Solis, the first woman to file a lawsuit against Watson in March 2021 and the first to speak publicly and identify herself as a plaintiff, and the plaintiff in Monday's lawsuit are two of four remaining women who still have active lawsuits against the Browns' quarterback, alleging a range of behavior that ranges from indecent exposure to sexual assault.