Can the Cleveland Browns void Deshaun Watson’s guaranteed contract after 24th lawsuit?
The Cleveland Browns knew about the 23 women who filed lawsuits against Watson, but an unknown 24th lawsuit could allow them to void his contract.
Here is a little breakdown of what’s happened with Deshaun Watson:
24 women have accused and filed lawsuits against him for sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault. A Times report laid out details about how it happened - Watson solicited massages, then sexualized the sessions, “begging” for oral sex and making aggressive sexual advances. Watson first denied all allegations, saying he did nothing wrong. Later, he changed the story - he only had sexual encounters with three of the women, but they initiated it. He said he made one of the massage therapist’s cry, but would not say why because...5th amendment. That, after saying he would never disrespect a woman. Of course not. It was the 24th woman who came forward with horrifying accusations that could make the difference in whether the Cleveland Browns can void his contract or not.
The loophole in Watson’s contract that could allow Browns to void it
The Browns were aware of the first 23 women who had filed lawsuits. In his contract with the team, it states that he is exempt from suspension “solely in connection with matters disclosed to the club in writing”, which we can assume means the 23 lawsuits. Now that a 24th has come forward, it’s possible that the Browns could void Watson’s contract, since they were not previously aware of this woman. Where there are 24, there are more. It would not be surprising if more women start coming out to tell their stories, considering more than 40 women have said they massaged Watson in the last year and a half. Even one witness who Watson’s own lawyer brought in said she thought Watson was making sexual advances to the massage therapists. It doesn’t help Watson’s case to know that the Houston Texans asked his dates to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin said only that he had not heard the 24th woman’s name before. That doesn’t necessarily mean they did not know of her claims. If she files a complaint which is submitted to a grand jury, and that grand jury indicts Watson, it could result in his suspension. A suspension seems highly probable considering the dozens of lawsuits, though the NFL itself has not yet stated what action they will take.
If he does get suspended, the Browns could void the contract. Should they? Yes, obviously. Will they, though? That is another question. If the Browns challenge this as a voidable cause and it ends up NOT being a voidable cause, Watson likely won’t take that very well. Either way, he’s likely going to be missing a lot more time than originally thought.