Mar 31, 2020, 2:41 pm
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
After 16 months of insisting that he wouldn’t settle out of court with an ever-increasing number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct – “all I want is my good name back” - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson suddenly and surprisingly decided to pay off the women to drop their civil lawsuits against him on Tuesday.
Well 20 of the 24 women, anyway.
“We are working through the paperwork related to the settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential,” said Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing Watson’s accusers.
Analysts say by settling most of the cases Watson, while not admitting guilt, Watson took a positive, major step toward getting his football career back on track. He sat out the entire 2021 season when he was a member of the Houston Texans.
And perhaps that’s the most stunning aspect of the entire Deshaun Watson scandal. That settling 20 of 24 lawsuits claiming sexual misconduct is a major step toward, if not redemption, at least getting his life moving forward.
What about the four cases alleging serious and disgusting sexual misbehavior pending in the legal system? Imagine if we didn’t know that at one time there were 24 similar allegations against him – and news broke that four different women accused Watson of unwanted, aggressive sexual acts. We’d be horrified. If the four women were telling the truth, we’d be talking about a sexual predator on the loose.
But now that Watson has settled with 20 of his 24 accusers, we’re practically considering the remaining cases as “only four.”
Do you hear yourself talking? Only 4? The only good thing about 4 … is 24.
So where do we stand now with the matter of Deshaun Watson?
It’s possible that the remaining four holdout accusers will agree to accept a settlement to avoid rolling the dice in a trial that won’t reach court until next year. Now that the First National Bank of Deshaun Watson is open for business, hard negotiations to wipe the remaining four cases off the docket can begin.
While the 20 settlements already reached are confidential, that’s not stopping fans and analysts from guessing how much Watson paid the women. And let’s not forget Buzbee, who we can assume will get a big chunk of change for his work. Considering that previous reports show that Watson offered $100,000 to the women last year, that is a reasonable starting point for the bidding now.
I spoke with one attorney with knowledge of the Watson case. He believes the women will be paid between $100,000 and $200,000 depending on the level of their accusations.
If I were sitting in the audience at the Price is Right, I’d be shouting “higher!” My guess: up to $500,000 each, paid in installments. Let’s crunch the numbers, 20 times half a million equals $10 million. Watson is scheduled to earn $230 million, fully guaranteed, over the next five years from the Browns. He can afford it. It’s an accuser’s market.
If the other four don’t settle, the cases eventually will go to court, and the women could lose. It’s in the financial interest of both sides to settle. So let’s throw another $2 million on the fire.
The NFL already says that Tuesday’s announced settlement with 20 of the accusers won’t affect any punishment, if any, the league hands down for Watson. Most in the media are guessing a six-game suspension on the low end, up to another year on the sidelines for Watson on the high end.
Again, I’m screaming “higher!” Technically higher. The last thing the NFL wants is to announce a punishment and later more women come forward with accusations of sexual misbehavior. Or Watson continues to solicit non-NFL affiliated masseuses on Instagram and acts inappropriately. While experts think Buzbee may be “out of the Deshaun Watson business,” there’s nothing to stop other lawyers to hop aboard the Watson money train. It’s a headache the NFL doesn’t need, especially in light of other punishments the league has handed down that now seem light.
My guess is that the NFL will suspend Watson indefinitely with an agreement to review the matter in one year. If there are no more serious and credible accusations, no additional lawsuits, no other concerns, then Watson will be OK’d to play the 2024 season.
No matter how this plays out in the future, there is plenty of wreckage left behind. Watson is now a broken brand. It’s estimated that he once had upwards of $10 million in product endorsements. It’s difficult to imagine that any company would want to be in the Deshaun Watson business now.
The Cleveland Browns, while relieved that Watson is on the road to playing for them at some point in the future, look like a cutthroat team willing to trade its soul for victories. When announcing their acquisition of Watson, team officials said they did extensive and thorough investigation into Watson’s character and legal issues. Not too many are buying that.
The Texans, while not accused of being pimps or accomplices for Watson, do appear to be enablers or they looked the other way during Watson’s masseuse spree.
Local media in Cleveland and Houston won’t be nominated for any Pulitzers for their investigation into the Watson case. It took the New York Times to lower the boom on Watson, that he solicited 66 women, not all of them licensed masseuses in Texas, over 17 months – not the 45 women over five years as Watson admitted to – to work on him, some of the massages in a hotel room paid for by the Texans.
Is the whole sordid case coming to an end? Let’s see if the NFL decides to punish Watson. Let’s see if more women come forward with accusations against Watson. Let’s see if the four remaining women accept a settlement.
As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over till it’s over. And it ain’t over yet.