Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing lawsuits from 22 different women accusing him of sexual misconduct, many of which have been filed in the past month by attorney Tony Buzbee. A number of the allegations follow a similar format—the women say Watson would contact them over Instagram for some sort of service, ranging from massage therapy to personal training, and then sexually harass or assault them while they were attempting to do their jobs. Although most of the women suing Watson have chosen to keep their names private, two of them went public with their stories at a Tuesday press conference.
Massage therapist Ashley Solis claims that Watson sexually harassed and assaulted her in her own home on March 30, 2020. The quarterback allegedly contacted Solis over Instagram, and while receiving a massage he repeatedly asked her to focus on his groin area, before “purposely” exposing himself and touching her with his penis. Solis says she quickly ended the massage, and Watson later apologized. “I replay the incident over and over in my head as if I’m trying to wake up from some horrible nightmare, only this nightmare is real,” said Solis at the Tuesday press conference. “I feel a range of emotions: guilt, embarrassment, shame, courage, anger, sadness and numbness. Some days I feel like a hero. Other days I feel like a failure.”
She continued, “it has taken me a long time to get to this point to come out publicly and speak my truth. I was afraid. I’m not afraid anymore. I am here to take back the power and take back control.”
During the press conference, a lawyer working with Buzbee read a letter to Watson from another accuser, a massage therapist named Lauren Baxley. Baxley claims that Watson asked her for a “digital massage” of his anal area and told her to grab his erect penis when it touched her hand. “I am heartbroken for your family, for your loved ones, for those coming to terms with the fact that your charitable work and good-guy persona are nothing more than a meticulously designed façade to keep your victims silent,” Baxley wrote to Watson.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin responded to the press conference by releasing a statement claiming that Buzbee—the lawyer representing the 22 women suing the Texans quarterback—had attempted to get $100,000 in “hush money” on behalf of Solis a month before he filed the first lawsuit against Watson. Despite the implication that Solis’s allegations of sexual assault must not be legitimate if she asked for a cash settlement in exchange for keeping quiet about her story, it is a weak diversion from the content of the allegations—especially after so many other women have come forward to accuse Watson of similar misconduct.