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‘That’s when I got really scared’: Deshaun Watson accusers speak to HBO

“He has no regrets because he did nothing wrong,” an attorney for Deshaun Watson said to HBO. (Ron Schwane/AP)
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Two of the women who accused Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during massage sessions detailed their allegations to HBO, and one said he made what sounded to her like a threat.

Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes, who are among 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against Watson, spoke on an episode of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” that aired Tuesday night. Solis told reporter Soledad O’Brien, “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand.”

“I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying,” Solis continued. “And I told him that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis then claimed that Watson told her, “I know you have a career to protect, and I know you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

“To me, that’s when I got really scared,” she told HBO. Asked why she felt that way, Solis replied, “Because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Watson denied this exchange occurred, per HBO, and has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing with any of the women accusing him.

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At his introductory news conference with the Browns in March, Watson declared: “All I can say is, again, I never assaulted, I never disrespected and I never harassed any woman in my life. I wasn’t raised that way. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way. Over the course of my life, that’s not in my DNA.”

The 26-year-old quarterback was acquired by the Browns in a trade that saw Cleveland send three first-round picks and three other draft selections to the Houston Texans, with whom Watson spent his first four NFL seasons. Watson was with the Texans when the alleged incidents with the massage therapists were said to have taken place, and he did not play in 2021 after news of them surfaced.

The Browns, who said they did “extensive investigative, legal and reference work” before making the trade — but who did not contact his accusers, their attorney said in March — then signed Watson to a fully guaranteed contract extension reportedly worth $230 million over five seasons.

“It was sick to me,” Hayes said of that lucrative pact. “I felt like he’s being rewarded for bad behavior.”

Hayes told “Real Sports” that during her massage session with Watson, he “wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area.”

“I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it,” continued Hayes, who said his conduct felt “intentional” to her.

Hayes said Watson eventually ejaculated, which she found “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

A Texas grand jury determined Watson will not face criminal charges, but he could be suspended or face other punishment from the NFL, which is conducting its own investigation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league was nearing the end of its probe but did not provide a timetable for a ruling. Former federal judge Sue Robinson, an independent disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and its players union, will rule on whether Watson violated the league’s code of conduct.

Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Watson, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week that he expected a decision from the NFL on Watson sometime this summer.

The league spoke with Watson over three days last week, Hardin said, and another interview could follow. He added at the time that he wasn’t “optimistic” about how his client would be portrayed in the HBO segment.

“I believe they’ll air the accusations of the women without attempting to look behind it to see what kind of merit do they have,” Hardin said. He claimed that while he didn’t expect Watson to “win the battle of public opinion,” he felt that NFL teams “cared most” about whether the quarterback would face any criminal liability.

The attorney for the 22 accusers, Tony Buzbee, said to HBO of the contract given to Watson: “I don’t think the team cares about what Deshaun Watson may have done in a massage session. And based on my personal experience with the NFL, I don’t think they care, either.”

Deshaun Watson denies allegations as he’s introduced by Browns

Another attorney for Watson, Leah Graham, characterized Buzbee as eager to exploit the women for professional gain.

“It’s 22 women. It’s one lawyer,” Graham told HBO. “There’s only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’s deposition, Mr. Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and, quite frankly, to get on shows like this one.”

Graham added that any sexual activity that took place between Watson and some of his accusers, which Hardin described last year as “mutually desired,” was “initiated by the plaintiff in every single instance.”

“As he testified in his depositions last week … he has no regrets because he did nothing wrong,” she said of Watson. “He did nothing wrong in these massages. To your first question, ‘How can he be innocent?’ I think the real question is, ‘What evidence is there of any guilt?’ ”

According to a partial courtroom transcript obtained by USA Today last week, Watson admitted in a pretrial deposition that he sent Solis a text message apologizing for her “feeling uncomfortable” during their session and claiming that was “never” his intention. Asked by an attorney during the deposition why he sent her that text, he reportedly replied: “Because she was teary-eyed. And I was trying to figure out what was going on. So I assumed that she was uncomfortable in whatever reason.”

The Browns have maintained that their research into Watson and the civil lawsuits left them “confident” that making him part of their organization was a well-considered move.

“We felt good about Deshaun as a person,” General Manager Andrew Berry said at a news conference in March. “We felt good about what we learned about the cases to a point where we felt comfortable pursuing the trade and bringing him into the building. And if we didn’t, in terms of what happened or moving forward, we wouldn’t have made the trade.”

Solis was the first massage therapist to file a lawsuit against Watson. Of the fact that 21 more women followed with similar legal actions against the quarterback, she tearfully told HBO, “I can’t believe that. I just feel sad that anybody had to feel the way that I did when I was in that room, because it’s so scary.”

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