Of the 22 civil lawsuits brought against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, only two of the plaintiffs have chosen to identify themselves, while the remainder of the women have chosen to sue anonymously. In an emergency hearing held on Friday morning a judge ruled that one plaintiff, who filed under Jane Doe, must refile her suit against Watson, this time using her real name, ESPN reports. Twelve other cases will undergo a similar hearing on Friday afternoon, which according to ESPN may lead to more women being forced to choose between protecting their identities and seeking justice.
A lawyer for Watson argued that the anonymity of the lawsuits “violates Texas law and the basic concept of fairness” and added that the plaintiff’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, used anonymity as a “sword” to defame Watson as opposed to a “shield” meant to protect women from the crippling attention and scrutiny that comes with accusing a famous man of anything.
Like many other football players who have been accused of sexual misconduct—Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman—Deshaun Watson currently benefits from the NFL’s policy that an accusation is not enough to suspend a player from a team. If Watson wins all of these civil cases—or they get thrown out for any reason—career-wise it will be as if nothing ever happened. He may have to do a limited apology tour and miss a game or two for the optics. But as long as he performs this season, Watson will still be entitled to his base salary of $39 million with the Texans, a team he asked to be traded from earlier this year.