A footnote included in the 23rd sexual misconduct lawsuit against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has revealed that the NFL star’s legal team offered $100,000 settlements to the other 22 plaintiffs on the condition they agree to an ‘aggressive’ non-disclosure clause.
‘Of course, we now know that Deshaun Watson offered each Plaintiff $100,000 to settle their cases, but not all would accept that amount, due to the aggressive nondisclosure agreement that Watson’s team proposed,’ read a footnote contained in Nia Smith’s lawsuit against Watson filed in Houston earlier this week.
When contacted by DailyMail.com, a spokesperson for Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, declined to confirm if the defendant offered $100,000 settlements to the plaintiffs.
This is not the first report of a $100,000 settlement offer by Watson to his accusers, most of whom work as licensed massage therapists in the Houston area. In January, the Daily Beast published a settlement offer to an unidentified plaintiff, stipulating that she agree to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice ‘within 24 hours’ and comply with a non-disparagement clause that bars her from criticizing Watson publicly.
The woman did not sign the settlement offer, according to the January piece in the Daily Beast.
Watson has been accused of forcing two women to perform oral sex on him, ejaculating on three women, and forcibly kissing another, while 18 women say he touched them with his penis during massages. Watson has denied the accusations, and after he was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns in March, told reporters that he has no plans to settle the lawsuits.
The 26-year-old Watson has denied the claims and Hardin has repeatedly stated that any sexual contact between his client and the plaintiffs was consensual. Earlier this year, a pair of Texas grand juries declined to charge Watson over criminal complaints connected to the allegations of sexual misconduct.
‘Deshaun Watson did nothing wrong,’ Hardin said in a statement Friday. ‘And as two grand juries have made clear, Deshaun did nothing illegal. Deshaun has always acknowledged consensual sexual activity with three of the plaintiff massage therapists after massages. And Deshaun has repeatedly sworn under oath that he did not force any of his accusers to have sexual contact.’
A footnote included in the 23rd sexual misconduct lawsuit against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (pictured) has revealed that the NFL star’s legal team offered $100,000 settlements to the other 22 plaintiffs on the condition they sign an ‘aggressive’ NDA
This footnote, contained in Nia Smith’s lawsuit against Watson, revealed the $100,000 offer
Some of Watson’s accusers are pictured in a Texas courtroom, where the first of two grand juries declined to press charges related to the sexual misconduct lawsuits against the NFL star
The Daily Beast previously published one $100,000 offer, which explains that Watson would only enter into the agreement to ‘buy peace’ but continues to deny the allegations
As explained in the offer, Watson would not concede any guilt in the lawsuits
Smith’s accusations against Watson follow a familiar pattern from the previous 22 lawsuits, which were filed in 2021 by female masseuses, or women in similar profession
Hardin previously told podcaster and attorney Gabe Feldman that the Miami Dolphins wanted Watson to offer settlements that included NDA language when the team was considering acquiring him from Houston, where he played from 2017 until 2021. Hardin told Feldman on his podcast that Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing all 23 plaintiffs, wanted the NDA because he was trying to hide the relatively meager settlements his clients would receive.
Hardin caused some confusion on Friday, when he bizarrely referred to a ‘happy ending’ while discussing the case with Houston sports radio station KILT.
‘I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that perhaps occasionally there was a happy ending, alright?’ Hardin said Friday. ‘Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that happened to. I do want to point out, if it has happened, it’s not a crime, OK? Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime.’
Watson is not accused of solicitation and the plaintiffs in the case are not accused of prostitution. Hardin reiterated his client’s innocence in a clarifying statement about his comments on Houston radio.
‘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. Deshaun did not pay anyone for sex,’ Hardin said. ‘I was using the term hypothetically and not describing Deshaun’s case.
‘If there is a consensual sexual encounter after a massage, that is not a crime nor the basis for a civil lawsuit. I was not talking about what Deshaun did or did not do or expected or did not expect.’
Text messages from A New U Spa owner Dionne Louis are seen, showing evidence of an transaction between Louis and Watson, who allegedly paid $5,000 to facilitate massages
After being sued by 22 women last year, Watson was sued by a 23rd woman, Smith, on Tuesday, and Buzbee told The Associated Press this week that he expects a 24th lawsuit to be filed in the near future.
Smith, a licensed cosmetologist from the Houston area, says she had three separate encounters with Watson in 2020, and claims his ‘behavior grew worse during every massage.’ According to Smith’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Harris County, Watson demanded she ‘go inside of his anus’ during their first appointment before grabbing her buttocks and repeatedly asking ‘if she wanted his penis in her mouth’ at their second. At one point,
‘Plaintiff was feeling extremely uncomfortable by this point, but she wanted to stay professional and not cause any conflict,’ read Tuesday’s filing. ‘Watson was much bigger and much stronger, and they were alone in a room. She was deathly afraid of what he would do if she reprimanded him.’
During their third meeting, Smith claims, Watson ‘repeatedly requested that [she] have sex with him.’
Smith did not want to go through with the third massage, according to the complaint, but felt ‘she could not refuse’ because of pressure from her boss at A New U Salon Spa, Dionne Louis. According to Smith, Louis ‘facilitated massages’ for Watson, for which she was paid at least $5,000. Smith said she complained about Watson to Louis, but those concerns were dismissed by her boss, who knew that the quarterback was pressuring her into sex.
DailyMail.com’s attempts to contact Louis have been unsuccessful thus far.
The three incidents allegedly took place at A New U, a Houston-area spa
Smith says she finished her third appointment with Watson by massaging him ‘from a distance as a way to avoid his groping.’
Afterwards, she says, Smith quit her job. She also says she’s suffering from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks as a result of her encounters with Watson.
As was the case with the previous 22 lawsuits, Watson is denying the accusations Hardin.
‘Deshaun Watson vehemently denies the allegations, just as he has since she first discussed them with members of our firm in March of last year,’ Hardin said in a statement provided to DailyMail.com. ‘She repeated the allegations on social media in August and he denied them then. The only thing new about her contentions is the embellishment making them more extreme than prior versions. Deshaun’s denial remains the same.’
Since the lawsuits were filed in 2021, Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Browns, who signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contact. The 26-year-old still faces potential discipline by the league, which is independently investigating the allegations.
Smith believes Watson’s attorneys have been aware that she could potentially file a lawsuit against their client since he was first sued by other women in the spring of 2021.
It was around that time, Smith says, that one of Watson’s attorneys reached out ‘in an effort to intimidate her.’ That attorney, an African-American woman, allegedly told Smith: ‘us black women must stick together.’
The plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee (left) and Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin (right)
Smith claims her name was leaked to the media by Watson’s attorneys, and she subsequently received death threats, which were so terrifying that she initially decided against filing a lawsuit.
She changed her mind after seeing a recent episode of HBO Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, in which two of Watson’s accusers detailed their allegations against him.
According to Smith’s lawsuit, ‘it was Watson himself claiming that even now he has ‘no regrets’ and has done nothing wrong that solidified her resolve.’
Hardin, in his statement, denied any attempt to intimidate Smith.
‘The two highly respected lawyers from our firm, Letitia Quinones and Rachel Lewis, also vehemently deny there was any coercion or intimidation involved in the very cordial meeting,’ Hardin said. ‘They met her to see if she was one of Mr. Buzbee’s then still anonymous plaintiffs. At that time Mr. Buzbee refused to identify his clients. The suggestion that either of these two accomplished lawyers would have said ‘us black women must stick together’ is absurd. The interview was so congenial, she joined the lawyers for dinner afterwards.’
Hardin accused Buzbee, the plaintiffs’ attorney, of a ‘transparent attempt to further punish the man he sees as a potential payday.’