Deshaun Watson's Alleged Misconduct with Massage Therapists Detailed in New SI Report

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 21, 2021

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans participates in warmups prior to a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson's conduct with multiple massage therapists was detailed in an investigative piece published by Sports Illustrated on Friday.

The piece by Jenny Vrentas, Greg Bishop and Gary Gramling features interviews with multiple women involved in the Watson cases, who spoke with SI anonymously, as well as other massage therapists who worked with Watson, and anonymous NFL players.

Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits filed against him by massage therapists. All of the lawsuits allege intentional infliction of emotional distress, 21 of them allege civil assault, which includes indecent assault, assault or harassment, and two of them allege that Watson committed sexual assault, which is defined as "nonconsensual penetration" in Texas.

The SI piece explores Watson's practice of contacting women on Instagram and setting up massage appointments. While many of those who contacted were licensed massage therapists, others weren't.

SI also reported that Watson had a reputation among massage therapists in the Houston area:

"Warnings about Watson had been percolating in the Houston massage therapy community for some time. Some were mundane—he was a last-minute booker, do not expect a tip. Others were far more troubling. Two LMTs told SI they were warned last year by others in their profession about Watson’s inappropriate conduct, including his making sexually explicit motions on the table or insisting on using a small towel that would inadequately cover his genital area, rather than the standard massage draping."

Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, estimated that Watson receives between 120 and 150 massages per year, which isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for an NFL player.

The Texans work with Genuine Touch Massage Therapy, which can arrange for therapists to work with players even while away from the team facility, although some players opt to find their own therapists.

An anonymous person with ties to the Texans said a member of the team's medical staff was concerned about Watson getting injured due to seeking out massage therapists on Instagram.

An anonymous NFC defensive back said, “I don’t know guys who use 22 different masseuses," in reference to the number of lawsuits filed against Watson.

SI also spoke to a veteran massage therapist who referred Watson to other massage therapists. She spoke under the condition of anonymity but was referred to as Susan in the article.

Another massage therapist, who had previously spoken to SI but has not filed a lawsuit, said she massaged Watson in the fall of 2019 after Watson was referred to her by Susan. The woman, referred to as Mary, said during the session he "purposely removed the towel covering him, told her she could touch and move his exposed penis and began thrusting his pelvis into the air after developing an erection."

Susan told SI Mary was the only massage therapist who reported an issue with Watson to her, but Mary produced a text conversation with Susan in which Susan wrote "whether the creepy stuff is his intention or not, he does it every time." Susan also wrote to Mary that "only 1 therapist hasn’t complained."

It was confirmed that the texts came from Susan's phone number, and Susan later told SI she was trying to be supportive of Mary in the text conversation and was referring to Watson requesting to use a small towel or washcloth to cover himself rather than a full-sheet draping.

Mary said Watson reached out to her again on Instagram after their session, but when she insisted he use a full-sheet draping before booking him again, he decided against booking.

The NFL players who spoke to SI anonymously all said they always have full-sheet drapings during their massage sessions and go out of their way to avoid exposing their genitals.

Ashley Solis is among the massage therapists who have filed lawsuits against Watson, and she was the first one to reveal her identity before Hardin filed a motion requiring all plaintiffs to refile their lawsuits with their names attached to them.

In her first public comments in April, Solis said Watson "assaulted and harassed" her. Another massage therapist who worked with Solis told SI she sent a message to an industry veteran, Susan, to ask what they should do after Solis told her a professional athlete client had "solicited" her during their session.

Hardin has denied the allegations against Watson and said that any sexual encounters that happened between him and any of the massage therapists were consensual.

Meanwhile, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Tony Buzbee, confirmed that four of his clients have spoken with the NFL thus far, and said there will not be a settlement between his clients and Watson.