Watson stands on his innocence in wake of 11-game suspension; settlements, apology help him move forward

BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Deshaun Watson’s apology allowed him to reach another settlement.

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This time with the National Football League.

“I’m looking forward to just moving forward with my career and being able to get back on the field as soon as possible,” Watson said Thursday afternoon after reaching a settlement through the NFLPA with the NFL on an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine.

His first apology came last Friday in an interview with team TV sideline reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala that aired on News 5, and he apologized again Thursday.

“I was apologizing to all women and people that was affected by the situation,” Watson said.

Watson, who indicated the settlement was handled by his legal team and the NFLPA on his behalf, was steadfast in denying he had done anything wrong in the wake of two dozen lawsuits filed against him that alleged sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions and a scathing 16-page report from former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who detailed her belief that Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy in multiple ways.

“I’ve always stood on my innocence, and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I’m continuing to stand on that,” Watson said. “At the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career. And for us to be able to move forward I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side and I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward, and I have always stood on not disrespecting or sexual assaulting anyone.”

Watson was asked, why apologize if he did nothing wrong?

“For everyone that was affected by this situation,” Watson said. “There was a lot of people that were triggered.”

Robinson outlined in her report, released on August 1, based on circumstantial evidence the league presented to her that the league carried their burden of proof to show that Watson violated the personal conduct policy in three ways – conduct that qualifies as a sexual assault as defined by the NFL, conduct that posed a danger to the safety and well-being of another person and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.

Robinson then issued a six-game suspension and mandated the Browns or any team that employs him in the future supervise his massage therapy going forward.

The NFL appealed the six-game ban three days later.

“I can’t speak on the fairness,” Watson said. “I only can control what I can control, and that is throughout this process, the NFL did what they had to do and the NFLPA communicated with the legal side. Like I said before, I focused on being out here and being the best teammate and football player and quarterback that I can for the Cleveland Browns, and I let the legal side handle their side.”

Watson settled 23 lawsuits filed against him. One case remains active, and another was dropped after a judge ruled the plaintiffs would be required to use their names.

“I am moving on with my career and my life, and I am continuing to stand by my innocence,” Watson said. “Just because settlements and things like that happen does not mean that a person is guilty for anything.
I feel like a person has an opportunity to stand on his innocence and prove that. We proved that on the legal side, and we are just going to continue to push forward as an individual and as a person.”

The league only presented four cases against Watson to Robinson, who was satisfied at the evidence provided to substantiate the allegations to warrant a ruling of multiple violations of league policy.

Both Robinson and commissioner Roger Goodell used the word “predatory” in describing Watson’s alleged behavior – Robinson in her report and Goodell to reporters at the NFL owners meetings earlier this month in Minnesota.

“I know who I am as a person. I know how I was raised. I know how I interact with people,” Watson said. “That is all I can do is continue to prove that and continue to show people that. People that do not know me whenever they do come in contact with me, they will know that.”

Because of the legal process as well league disciplinary process, Watson has been limited in what he could say publicly.

With this nearing a resolution, Watson hopes to tell his full side of the story down the road.

“That is definitely the plan. That is definitely the goal,” Watson said. “I feel like through this whole process we have been trying to tell my side of the story, but a lot of people were not able to or did not really pay too much attention to it, but one day we will.”

Watson will make his Browns regular season debut in Week 13 against his former team – the Texans in Houston, who also settled 30 lawsuits alleging they enabled the behavior he was accused of engaging in.