Cleveland Browns star Deshaun Watson received multiple massages at a private hotel and club for which the Houston Texans had provided him a membership, according to a New York Times investigation published Tuesday.
Per the Times' Jenny Vrentas, Watson said in a deposition he had some of his massage therapists sign a copy of a nondisclosure agreement that had been left in his locker by the Texans' director of security, Brent Naccara.
Rusty Hardin, Watson's lawyer, said the quarterback "continues to vehemently deny" the allegations that have led to 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
"We can say when the real facts are known this issue will appear in a different light," Hardin said.
Vrentas reported Watson set up massage appointments with at least 66 women between the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2021. While he was still a member of the team, the Texans indirectly helped facilitate the sessions:
"It's unclear whether the Texans knew how many massages Watson was getting or who was providing them. But their resources helped support his massage habit away from the team. Watson acknowledged in a deposition that the Texans arranged for him to have 'a place' at The Houstonian. He used the fitness club, dined there and also set up massages in hotel rooms."
In March 2021, the Texans issued a statement saying they "became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post last night" and added that "this is the first time we heard of the matter."
However, Vrentas reported Nia Smith shared text messages from Watson on Instagram in November 2020 and said she "could really expose you" in reference to the three-time Pro Bowler after they had multiple massage sessions. Smith is among those who have filed suit, alleging he made continued sexual advances without her consent during sessions.
Watson said during a deposition he alerted Naccara about Smith's posts shortly after they surfaced. Following that conversation, Naccara supplied him with the NDA, which he began bringing to massage appointments.
Regarding his massage sessions at The Houstonian, Watson said to the best of his knowledge he didn't believe Texans officials knew of them happening. He also said the membership at the hotel was not under his name, and one woman who provided Watson with a massage at the hotel said "the room was registered to a member of the Texans' training staff," per Vrentas.
The investigation also reviewed communications between Hardin and prosecutors, including Johna Stallings, the Harris County (Texas) sex crimes prosecutor who was in charge of Watson's case. Former Harris County prosecutor Njeri Mathis Rutledge said the amount of contact between the two was "noteworthy."
Vrentas reported there was only one contact between prosecutors and the lawyers for the women suing Watson, though prosecutors did contact some of the women directly.
Although two grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges stemming from the sexual misconduct allegations this past March, his civil suits remain unresolved. He also remains subject to punishment from the NFL, which has yet to conclude its investigation.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in May the inquiry was "nearing its end," but that was before two more women came forward to file the 23rd and 24th suits against Watson.