Deshaun Watson will make his debut for the Cleveland Browns Sunday against his former team following an 11-game suspension, and at least 10 of his accusers will be watching from the stands.
Tony Buzbee, a lawyer representing the 25 women who have accused the former Houston Texans quarterback of sexual misconduct, told The Athletic in a report published Tuesday that he and around 10 of the women he represents will be in a suite at NRG Stadium to send a message to Watson.
“You think you put us behind you, but we are still here,” Buzbee said.
Buzbee has been critical of the discipline Watson has faced. After Watson’s six-game suspension was revised to 11 games, Buzbee released a statement criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“By settling this matter the way he has, Roger Goodell has proven one of two things: either his recent rhetoric was utter baloney, or his bark is much worse than his bite. My belief is that he is nothing more than a paper tiger,” Buzbee said in a statement at the time.
“The message today to all victims is clear: If you believe you have been sexually assaulted by a powerful person, keep your mouth shut and go away. The NFL has certainly demonstrated that its ownership and the organization doesn’t care.”
Ultimately, 25 women represented by Buzbee filed lawsuits. One woman dropped her lawsuit while 23 others settled their cases in August. In July, 30 women who had accused the Texans of turning a blind eye to allegations against their former star quarterback settled their legal claims against the team.
It’s unclear what kind of reception Watson will receive. Head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday he did not consider waiting to play Watson until after the game against the Texans over what could be a potentially volatile environment, adding he has his team’s backing.
“Deshaun has the support of his teammates and has the support of this organization. Really right now his focus and my focus is on the Houston game. That is what we have to do as players and as coaches is put the blinders on. Whatever is going on on the outside really can’t matter to us. We have to focus on doing our job, and I think he definitely understands that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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