The lawyer for 24 women who filed civil suits against Deshaun Watson held a media conference Thursday in which he criticized an arbitrator’s six-game suspension of the Cleveland Browns quarterback as a “kiss on the cheek,” then called on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to “do the right thing” in an appeal that will determine Watson’s final punishment.
In a wandering set of remarks that criticized the NFL's investigation into Watson, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee expressed disappointment from some of Watson's civil accusers over the quarterback's initial six-game ban, which was delivered by independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson on Monday. Buzbee went on to say victims of sexual assault are now "watching" Goodell and the NFL as the forthcoming appeal unfolds in the coming days. He went on to revisit past criticisms of the league's disciplinary process, as well as how criminal complaints had been handled during Houston-area grand jury hearings.
Aside from a wide-ranging recap of several prior statements during his handling of civil litigation against Watson, Buzbee did confirm a handful of legal developments over the last few weeks. Among them: that Watson and 23 of 24 civil accusers have reached financial settlements in their cases; that one civil case continues to be pending and is planning to move forward; that the Houston Texans have reached financial settlements with 30 women related to Watson's past behavior and Buzbee's firm won't be bringing any future litigation against the team relating to Watson; and that aside from the Texans' settlement, Buzbee's firm has not released the NFL from potential future lawsuits.
Surrounding confirmation of those developments, Buzbee detailed what he viewed as various failures in the NFL’s process of discipline and specific handling of the 10 Watson accusers who had spoken with the league’s investigators. He then closed with what appeared to be a verbal challenge to Goodell to deliver a more significant punishment to Watson in the league’s appeal, which will be determined by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey.
Goodell named Harvey as the final arbitrator in the process on Thursday, handing him the power to determine Watson's final suspension.
“We are here today with a message to the NFL,” Buzbee said. “Every victim of sexual assault is watching Roger Goodell and the NFL right now. This idea that Mr. Goodell is going to hand it off to someone else who is ‘independent’ — we don’t buy it. Mr. Goodell, what will you do? It’s never too late to do the right thing. That’s what these women and those watching are expecting.”