The Houston Texans have been docked a fifth-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and fined $175,000 for a salary cap reporting violation involving former team quarterback Deshaun Watson.
An NFL investigation determined that the Texans provided Watson with membership to an athletic club in 2020, when the team facility was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement stipulates that teams must report any compensation or benefit given by the clubs to its players.
Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns before the 2022 season after being accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, most of whom work or worked as massage therapists. The three-time Pro Bowl QB was allegedly sexually inappropriate with the women during massage therapy appointments while he played for Houston between 2019 and 2021. Watson settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits filed by the women, who have accused him of everything from indecent exposure to claims of forced oral sex.
In July, the Texans reached confidential settlements with 30 women who accused Watson of sexual misconduct. The NFL club was accused of enabling Watson by allegedly ignoring his behavior and securing him a membership at a local hotel and club, the Houstonian, where he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted female massage therapists.
It’s unclear if the NFL is punishing the Texans for giving Watson a membership to the Houstonian or another club in the Houston area. An NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for clarification.
An NFL investigation determined that the Texans provided Deshaun Watson (pictured) with membership to an athletic club in 2020, when the team facility was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement stipulates that teams must report any compensation or benefit given by the clubs to its players
The Texans are not denying any wrongdoing, as far as the salary cap violation is concerned.
‘During the 2020 league year and while its facilities were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Club absorbed $26,777 in costs for player benefits for the use of alternate athletic facilities, which it understands should have been charged instead to player salaries,’ read a team statement.
‘The Club has fully cooperated with the League in its investigation of these matters and maintains that it had no intention to circumvent any salary cap rules or gain any sort of competitive advantage. While we disagree with the League’s ruling, we will accept the imposed discipline and move forward!’
Watson, who went 3-3 in his first season with the Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him earlier this year.
Watson reached a settlement with the league in August to sit out 11 games, pay a $5 million fine and undergo counseling and treatment.
The 27-year-old quarterback was originally suspended six games by an independent arbitrator before the NFL appealed the perceived light sentence in August. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had the right to rule over the appeal, but instead tapped former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to handle the duties.
Ultimately, though, the NFL and players’ union reached a compromise before Harvey issued his decision.
As part of the deal, Watson is required to ‘promptly undergo a professional evaluation by behavioral experts and will follow their treatment program.’ He previously told reporters that he was already undergoing counseling.
With the allegations looming, Watson was acquired in a trade with the Texans in March and quickly agreed to a restructured contract, guaranteeing him $230 million over five seasons in Cleveland. (Watson’s $5 million fine and roughly $640,000 he’ll lose in game checks represents just 2.4 percent of his entire contract)
Watson said in a statement that he was sorry ‘for any pain this situation has caused,’ but when speaking to reporters at Browns training camp on Thursday, he once again reiterated his innocence.
‘I’m moving on with my career and my life, and I’m continuing to stand on my innocence,’ Watson said. ‘Just because settlements happen doesn’t mean a person is guilty.’
He also declined to say if the settlement was fair or not: ‘I’m going to keep my opinion to myself.’
Several of the massage therapists allegedly met Watson at a local hotel and private club, the Houstonian, where the Texans had reportedly secured him a membership
The New York Times reported in June that Watson booked massages with at least 66 women over a 17-month span while his former team, the Houston Texans, allegedly provided a venue for some of the appointments and even gave him with a non-disclosure agreement for the women to sign.
According to the report, which includes excerpts from civil suit depositions and interviews with some of the women, Watson’s behavior was far more egregious than previously known, and the Texans may have been aware of the problem.
While the 26-year-old estimated he booked around 40 massages over a five-year period with the Texans, the Times reported that Watson actually had appointments with at least 66 different women from the fall of 2019 through the spring of 2021.
Not all of those massage therapists have accused him of sexual misconduct.
It remains unclear why he repeatedly met with new massage therapists. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, previously claimed that Watson needed to book appointments ‘ad hoc’ during the pandemic.
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