Lawyers for Deshaun Watson appeared on Houston sports radio Friday to discuss the 23 civil lawsuits against the Cleveland Browns quarterback, all brought by women alleging varying levels of sexual impropriety to which they were subjected during massage dates with Watson.
Near the end of the interview, attorney Rusty Hardin made a light-hearted comment that was both ignorant and rage-inducing, and potentially interesting to NFL investigators.
“I don’t know how many men out there now have had a massage that maybe sometimes had a happy ending. Okay?” Hardin began. “Maybe there’s no one in your audience that it happened to.
“I want to emphasize: if this happened, it’s not a crime. OK? 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.”
Hardin said there had been consensual sexual activity between Watson and some of the women. Based on the fact that 23 women filed lawsuits, not all of the massage therapists Watson had appointments with consented to what happened during their interactions with him.
Hardin tries to earn his client’s points in the court of public opinion, but at this point it doesn’t matter whether what Watson did was criminal or not. Two grand juries declined to indict him, meaning he is free from criminal investigation, but his innocence still has to be tried in civil court.
Hardin saying “making someone uncomfortable is not a crime” is callous, wrong, and also not the discussion at this point. What matters now is whether Watson engaged in conduct for which he can be held liable in civil court. There is a very different standard in civil court than in criminal court. The NFL Personal Conduct Policy also has different standards.
What always matters is consent.
Thinking you’re funny by mentioning a “happy ending” in a radio interview and again downplaying women who make accusations is why rape culture persists.
This is why a culture like the one that prevails in the offices of commanders in Washington has spread for years.
That’s why, despite Watson facing these numerous allegations, the Cleveland Browns acquired him from the Houston Texans, signed him to the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history, and gave flimsy answers and utterly unsatisfactory when asked why they did so given Watson’s considerable background.
That’s why women from all walks of life, from all walks of life, keep silent about their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Some family and friends may know them, but as women we have been shown time and time again over the decades that the work supervisors or human resource officers or the police and the justice system who deliver “justice for a very small population of citizens will do. nothing substantial.
So most of the time we keep them to ourselves.
Hours after the interview, Hardin was quick to clarify his comments through a statement. It said in part: “During a radio interview in Houston today, I mentioned that a massage that has a ‘happy ending’ is not illegal, which means that 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 I was using the term hypothetically and didn’t describe Deshaun’s case.
“I repeated to the others that it is not acceptable to do anything that a woman does not agree to do. These women alleged assault in their closing arguments. I was speaking in a hypothetical situation. S ‘there is consensual sex after a massage, that’s not a crime or basis for a civil suit. I wasn’t talking about what Deshaun did or didn’t do or expected or didn’t do.’ wasn’t expecting.
A yuck interview followed by a yuck statement. Watson may be a creep, but all he pays Hardin in billable hours is too much.
Hardin has now turned around in the past year. Initially, he implied that all the accusers were liars. Now he says there was sexual contact between Watson and at least some of the therapists, but it was consensual, even though nearly two dozen lawsuits say they weren’t all, not in the eyes. women.
His statement and clarifications continue to smear the women, implying that they are all sex workers and spreading a trope. What became clear was that Watson hoped at a minimum to have a sexual encounter with many, if not all, of the women he had dated and had little or no interest in massage therapy; if he wanted sex workers, he could surely find them and pay for the anonymity and discretion that would have kept him out of the situation he now finds himself in.
Some of the women who have accused Watson of wrongdoing have worked with him more than once; some accusers said his behavior escalated with each visit until he became unbearable. These women were basically running their own micro business, and having a client like Watson might have been a godsend, so they tried to tolerate him until they couldn’t anymore.
This is a familiar situation for many women.
It’s understandable that a woman excited about potentially having an NFL quarterback as a regular customer would give her a second chance even after a first encounter left her upset. Maybe she had misinterpreted his actions the first time and he would be fine the second time around. Or maybe she could internalize a little discomfort if it meant she had a deep-pocketed client with lots of teammates who might also need a massage therapist.
Deshaun Watson clearly doesn’t care how he made some of these women feel. Rusty Hardin clearly doesn’t care how Watson made some of these women feel. The Cleveland Browns clearly don’t care.
Trying to avoid incidents like the ones Watson has been accused of is why they keep happening. Ignoring the concept of consent and a person’s right to say yes or no is why they keep happening.
This is why women are still so often afraid of what will happen to them if they tell their truth. People like Dan Snyder will be protected, lawyers like Rusty Hardin will smear the accusers, quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson will get guaranteed contracts.
It’s high time it stopped.