3RD LAWSUIT FILED

How Watson lawsuits serve as cautionary tale of accusation, perception and perspective

This is where it stands today. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

A few years ago, a friend and I were talking, "Who, if they were caught taking steroids or arrested for drugs or domestic violence, would absolutely devastate the city where they played?"

Our final answer was: J.J. Watt. That's how beloved and respected he was in Houston, a modern day superhero and role model. Seemingly the perfect person.

We're not there yet with Deshaun Watson. But since arriving in Houston, he's made all the right moves, starting his rookie season in 2017 by donating his first game paycheck to NRG Stadium employees whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Harvey. Over the past four years, Watson has been a fine citizen and dazzling quarterback for the Houston Texans. With Watt's departure for Arizona, Watson is the brightest sports star in Houston.

Of course Watson's luster has been tarnished of late with his demand that the Texans trade him out of Houston. Somehow he remains the fans' favorite, a rare case where the public is siding with a superstar who wants to leave the city. We get it. Watson deserves better.

Then late Tuesday night, celebrity lawyer Tony Buzbee announced on Instagram that he was filing a civil lawsuit accusing Watson of sexual misconduct with a masseuse back in March 2020. That was followed with another lawsuit Wednesday, packed with lurid, step-by-step details about an encounter with a different masseuse at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa in August 2020.

Thursday morning, a third lawsuit was filed, this one claiming that Watson physically forced a masseuse to perform a sex act on him. Buzbee says a fourth, fifth and sixth lawsuits are on their way.

Watson, who has kept silent during his drawn out demand to be traded, spoke up immediately Tuesday night. In a social media post, he insisted that he's innocent of the claims in these lawsuits. Watson wrote, "I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect."

Watson claimed that Buzbee, before filing the first lawsuit, tried to shake him down for "six-figure" hush money. Watson concluded, "this isn't about money for me – it's about clearing my name and I look forward to doing that."

Buzbee says that he's received death threats and his children have been harassed since he filed the lawsuits against Watson. Buzbee insists that he will not litigate his clients' charges in the press. It does look that he will make his case on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, however.

This is where it stands today: is Deshaun Watson, Houston's highly paid, coveted and admired quarterback a sleazebag sexual predator, or is he the innocent victim of blackmail and character assassination orchestrated by a bombastic, publicity-seeking lawyer for some unknown reason, possibly revenge for Watson wanting to leave the Houston Texans?

Already wild conspiracy theories abound on social media and sports talk radio. Is Buzbee fronting for Texans management in an attempt to destroy Watson's reputation so other NFL teams will get cold feet on dealing for Watson? Is Buzbee, a former Republican candidate for mayor, exacting payback for Watson's activism on social issues? Or is Buzbee simply seeking to bring down a high profile professional athlete to stroke his ego and lure more clients?

In his Instagram post Tuesday night, Buzbee claimed, "I love football as much as the next person (although I've never been a Texans fan)."

In 2014, Buzbee, an A&M graduate, paid to erect several billboards around Houston imploring the Texans to draft Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel, whom Buzbee called "the greatest college football player ever." In a recent social media post, Buzbee refered to Texans owner Cal McNair as "my neighbor" in River Oaks.

Buzbee says he is not filing these lawsuits seeking fame or financial reward, but to fight for justice for his clients – "it takes a lot of guts to stand up to the powerful when you are perceived powerless."

The case may take months or longer to wind its way through court, if there aren't quiet private settlements to make all this go away. When a trade to move Watson is made, the quarterback's advisors may wish to avoid press reports that include "Watson currently is being sued by several women for inappropriate sexual behavior."

While fans and society in general tend to glamorize football stars like Watson, we really know little about them other than their accomplishments on the gridiron and what their personal management wants us to know. Even if these lawsuits ultimately do reach a courtroom, we still may not know what went on between Watson and the women. With multiple lawsuits, we will have a classic case of "he says, they say."

It's important to remember that Watson is guilty of nothing at the moment. Lawsuits are merely accusations. Anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody for anything.

However, these accusations are serious and should be taken seriously. We should hold judgment. The Texans released a statement saying little except they are aware of the lawsuits. The NFL has made no comment.

Often accusations of predator behavior are used as political or personal weapons. Deshaun Watson is not a government official whose decisions affect our daily lives. He is a quarterback. While many of us may think that's a more important position than elected official, we should take a deep breath and let this play out.

Wherever Deshaun Watson plays next season.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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