As gross as it is that any organization would protect a member at the expense of a victim, it’s also way too common. We’ve seen it in sports, in the NFL with the Washington Commanders and USA Gymnastics with Larry Nassar. We’ve seen it in television with Fox News and Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. We’ve seen it in finance, music, medicine, and anywhere else an organization is more concerned with protecting who they deem as valuable as opposed to the victims.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that the Houston Texans are being sued for their complicity in Deshaun Watson’s actions that have resulted 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits, four of which remain unsettled. One of the four remaining accusers filed a suit against the Texans this morning, alleging the team enabled Watson’s behavior.
Some of the details corroborate what The New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas reported in early June, that the Texans provided a hotel room for Watson and also gave him NDAs for the women who gave him massages to sign after one threatened to go public with some of his behavior.
Genuine Touch is the massage therapy group that is contracted to work with the Texans. The group’s owner, Joni Honn, allegedly expressed concern to the Texans in June 2020 that Watson was soliciting unlicensed massage therapy on Instagram, because it left him vulnerable to lawsuits, and, at the time, it was during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s not to say that Watson always avoided working with Texans’ massage group. According to the lawsuit, some of his behavior with Genuine Touch is similar to what has been described in the past. Allegedly, Watson would prefer to wear a small towel instead of the usual dressing gown, and was accused of once ejaculating during a session after “humping the table.” Houston Police detective Kamesha Baker said in her deposition that Honn claims Watson used the “towel trick” on two of Genuine Touch’s therapists.
When one of the people Watson solicited on Instagram threatened to expose him on social media, the lawsuit says, the Texans provided Watson NDAs for him to have his massage therapists sign going forward, something Watson confirmed while being deposed. Also, the Texans allegedly had the masseur’s post scrubbed from the Internet. Their head trainer, Roland Ramirez, had allegedly received several complaints from the Houstonian, the hotel where the Texans were paying for a room for Watson, about the number of women coming to his rooms.
According to New York Times’ reporting, and as now alleged in a lawsuit, the Texans had knowledge of what Watson was up to. The suit claims they provided him with a room for him to have private massages done allegedly aware something was amiss. And they already had a licensed massage therapy group that they paid to work on their players. The Texans also are alleged to have helped him try to avoid embarrassment and litigation when someone who felt she was harmed by Watson threatened to go public. Furthermore, workers from the Texans’ licensed massage therapy group allege they were aware of Watson tryin to turn therapy sessions into sexual gratification.
Watson, who settled 20 of the 24 suits against him, has denied any wrongdoing.
If the allegations are true, the Texans had no problem turning a blind eye to highly unusual behavior, and accusations of sexual misconduct, but when it came to dealing with a promising young football roster, they botched it so badly that after everything they did to appease Watson, he still demanded a trade. Before we knew about this alleged double life that Watson was living, the public was on his side about wanting out of Houston.
“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today,” the Texans said in a statement. “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 Texans traded arguably their best player in DeAndre Hopkins, and dismantled and mismanaged their roster — a team that won four division titles in five seasons — so badly that even J.J. “Captain America” Watt himself requested to be released from the team during the same offseason that Watson wanted to be traded.
So what will the public ultimately judge the Texans for? The product they put on the field, which they proved hopelessly incompetent of managing? Or the allegations that they failed numerous victims to protect a promising young superstar QB? Don’t forget, the Texans have had their own problems with their cheerleaders, owner Cal McNair’s racist statements about COVID. And now, they are allegedly played a significant role in facilitating Deshaun Watson’s sexual assault of numerous women. They’ve failed in epic fashion.
So outside of constructing the first stadium with a retractable roof in the NFL, the Houston Texas have proven themselves capable of creating nothing but shame. Now they’re right where they need to be, answering questions along with Watson — who is no longer on their roster.