As Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to wade through the court of public opinion, two of his lawyers submitted to a lengthy radio interview Friday morning regarding the case.
Rusty Hardin and Leah Graham appeared on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. They answered many questions about the 23 ongoing civil cases against Watson. Each of the lawsuits alleges sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Hardin and Graham have said many things that merit consideration and analysis. Near the end of the interview, Hardin had this to say about the possibility of Watson receiving massages from so many different therapists with an expectation, hope, and/or desire that it would take a sexual turn. Indeed, Watson and his attorneys have admitted consensus activity took place with three of the plaintiffs who sued him.
“I don’t know how many men are out there now who’ve had a massage that maybe sometimes had a happy ending,” Hardin said. “Perhaps there is no one in your audience that this has ever happened to. I want to emphasize, if this has happened, it’s not a crime. OKAY? Unless you pay someone extra to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. . . . Doing something or saying something or being in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable is not a crime.
But we’re not talking about criminal conduct at this point in the process. The question is whether a civil violation has occurred — something that is not a crime but constitutes conduct that would allow the plaintiff to receive just compensation.
An equally important question for Watson is whether his behavior violates the Personal Conduct Policy. If he arranged massages hoping for a “happy ending” and in doing so connected in a way that made multiple massage therapists uncomfortable, that potentially amounts to “conduct that poses a real danger to the safety and well-being of another person” and/or “conduct that impairs or endangers the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs or NFL personnel”.
Hardin, Graham and the rest of Watson’s legal team are paid to defend him. That’s what they do. They don’t get paid to say, “Listen, Deshaun likes to get massaged by strangers and eventually get them sexual.” Sometimes the massage therapist initiates it. Sometimes he has to take the first step. Sometimes the massage therapist may not be interested in doing this. Sometimes the massage therapist may end up feeling uncomfortable or offended.
Common sense suggests, based on the 23 outstanding claims against Watson, that he was doing precisely that. Does anyone believe these massages were therapeutic? He’s a professional athlete. He would want to find someone who consistently gives him the kind of massage that allows him to get the most out of his abilities, not a revolving door of people with varying levels of skill and experience who may or may not improve his performance on the court. performance – and could potentially alter it with just one wrong move.
He has every right to defend himself against these 23 cases and to insist that he did nothing wrong before, during and after the trials. However, as Hardin increasingly sheds light on the situation, he’s dangerously close to admitting that Watson indeed had a habit of seeking and/or achieving “happy endings.” Is it any wonder that therapists who opposed these advances, once they realized they had rights that could be sued, decided to do so?
Hardin and Graham continue to try to blame attorney Tony Buzbee for essentially soliciting plaintiffs with claims against Watson. What if he did? Turn on the TV and try to watch 20 minutes without seeing an advertisement in which a lawyer or law firm tries to solicit specific types of people with specific types of claims against specific defendants, from asbestos to powdered talcum powder to weed eaters to truck accidents to workers’ compensation to any type of civil lawsuit a person can make, and from which their lawyers will make money.
Ultimately, the 23 pending cases will go to court and be decided by a jury unless they are settled. Ultimately, the NFL will decide whether Watson violated the personal conduct policy. If Watson’s defense in the Court of Roger Goodell is: “Have I had any happy endings?” Sure. Was I trying for more than that? You bet. But, hey, it’s not a crime,” Watson is unlikely to avoid a lengthy suspension.