The NFL told the Houston Texans on Thursday that the league has begun an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against star quarterback Deshaun Watson, officials said.
“The NFL informed us today that they will conduct an investigation into the allegations made in the civil lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson. We will stay in close contact with the league as they do,” a Houston Texans spokesperson said in an email.
“We continue to take this and all matters involving anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously. We do not anticipate making any additional statements until the NFL’s investigation concludes.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NBC News in an email that the “matter is under review of the league’s personal conduct policy.” Regardless of a criminal conviction or investigation, the NFL can suspend Watson if they find he violated the league’s personal conduct policy, including sexual misconduct, according to the NFL website.
Houston lawyer Anthony Buzbee, the attorney representing the women accusing Watson, said in an Instagram post on Thursday that he and his clients would “cooperate with the NFL’s investigation and with any other investigative authorities.”
The investigation came after three massage therapists accused star NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed this week in Texas, including a woman who alleged that she was forced to perform oral sex.
All three plaintiffs, who filed as Jane Doe, said that they are independent contractors who were surprised to be contacted via Instagram by one of pro football’s best-known players but that they nonetheless booked appointments.
“Watson’s behavior is part of a disturbing pattern of preying on vulnerable women,” according to two of the lawsuits, all of which were filed by Buzbee.
One of the allegations stems from an incident Dec. 28 when the therapist gave Watson, a member of the Houston Texans, a massage in a Houston office building, according to the complaint.
Watson repeatedly told her “to move her hands down to his pubic area,” the suit says.
“Plaintiff felt intimidated and threatened. She was afraid of what someone like Watson could do if she did not submit to his demands,” the lawsuit says. “Watson kept coercing and intimidating plaintiff and it was at this point that Watson coerced plaintiff to move her mouth toward his penis, forcing plaintiff to perform oral sex on him.”
Buzbee added: “Plaintiff wishes she could have been more courageous and would have ended the massage. But she felt helpless in the moment. Plaintiff was under Watson’s control.”
The two other accusers said Watson exposed himself in massage sessions on March 30 and Aug. 28 of last year, also in Houston.
In the Aug. 28 incident, Watson is alleged to have flown the Atlanta-based therapist to Texas for a session at the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.
At one point, Watson “flipped over on his back, with his penis completely exposed,” and then refused to cover himself with a towel, prompting her to prematurely end the massage and take an Uber to the airport, according to the lawsuit.
The March 30 session was at the plaintiff’s home, where she broke down in tears, says one of the lawsuits, which alleges that Watson exposed himself and touched her hand “with the tip of his erect penis.”
The suit alleges that as she was crying, Watson told her: “I know you have a career and a reputation and I know you would hate for someone to mess with yours just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”
After the first lawsuit was filed Tuesday, Watson said in a statement that he was being wrongly targeted by a “publicity-seeking” lawyer.
“I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect,” he said. “The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this isn’t about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn’t about money for me — it’s about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”
Watson, who has not publicly addressed the subsequent suits, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Watson has played four seasons for the Texans, but he has demanded to be traded. His future has been a point of nonstop speculation since the end of the 2020 season, when he threw for a league-high 4,823 yards.
Harris County sheriff’s deputies have not received a sexual assault complaint against Watson, a department spokeswoman said Thursday. The agency could not be reached for comment Friday.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.