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Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing more than 20 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct during massage appointments since March 2021.
On Tuesday, a 23rd complaint was filed against the Browns’ quarterback, and attorney Tony Buzbee will reportedly be filing a 24th soon.
While two grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges in March, the civil cases remain active.
Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have maintained Watson’s innocence, saying the quarterback engaged in consensual sexual activity with three massage therapists.
Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns during the team’s offseason workout at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus June 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
On Friday, Hardin joined SportsRadio 610 in Houston and made some controversial comments.
“I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that perhaps occasionally there was a happy ending,” Hardin told the radio station. “Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that ever happened to. I do want to point out, if that has happened, it’s not a crime. Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some kind of sexual activity, it’s not a crime.
“Doing something or saying something or being a way that makes you uncomfortable is not a crime,” Hardin added. “We’ve had two grand juries find that, and nobody seems to want to listen.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns speaks during his press conference introducing him as a Brown at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Following blowback, Hardin clarified his remarks, releasing a statement saying he was speaking “hypothetically” and was not discussing Watson’s case.
“On a Houston radio show interview today, I mentioned that a massage that has a ‘happy ending’ is not illegal, meaning it is not illegal for someone to have consensual sex with a therapist after a massage unless the sex is for pay,” Hardin wrote in a statement. “Deshaun did not pay anyone for sex. I was using the term hypothetically and not describing Deshaun’s case.
“I have reiterated to others it’s not OK to anything that a woman does not agree to do. These women have alleged assault in their pleadings. I was speaking in a hypothetical situation.”
Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during an offseason workout at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus June 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Buzbee, the lawyer representing the women suing Watson, told USA Today Sports the women didn’t agree to “give Deshaun Watson a happy ending.”
“That Mr. Hardin would suggest that Watson was OK in expecting that kind of conduct is disgusting,” Buzbee said. “I think Mr. Hardin himself, in his moment of clarity, may have ended Watson’s career.”
Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Browns in March, and Cleveland signed Watson to a record-setting five-year, $230 million contract, all of it guaranteed.