CLEVELAND — Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing two dozen women who filed civil lawsuits against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson alleging sexual assault and harassment, questioned the NFL's investigative process at a news conference Thursday, and appealed to the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell "to do the right thing."
Buzbee is also representing 30 women in separate lawsuits against the Texans for allegedly turning a blind eye to the allegations against Watson; those claims were settled last month. The details of the settlement will remain confidential, he said.
"The one case that was formally filed against the Houston Texans will shortly be dismissed," Buzbee said. "There will not be any others filed, at least from this law firm."
He praised the Texans front office for their professionalism in handling the matter.
"The Texans organization and their counsel handled this matter in a professional way," he said. "My hope is that all organizations will be much more attuned to the possibility of this situation or similar situations going forward."
Buzbee is representing 24 women who accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis, or kissing them against their will during massage appointments while he played for the Texans. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex. Earlier this week, he announced 23 of those 24 lawsuits have been settled.
The Texas-based attorney released new information regarding how the disciplinary process was handled by the NFL in conjunction with the women and their cases, stating it is a "juggled mess."
"By design, you have an entity investigating one of its own investigating itself, collecting information to put in front of someone appointed by itself," he said. "And then that same entity serves as a decider of any appeal."
The NFL presented to disciplinary officer Sue Robinson four cases out of the 10 women that were made available by Buzbee, but "the NFL wasn't really interested in talking to them," he said.
Buzbee said none of his clients were asked to testify at the hearing in June, nor even knew of the hearing.
"In fact, none of us, including my clients, were even informed of the hearing," Buzbee said. "We had to read about it in the newspaper and we had to read about the result of it. We don't know what was actually presented. We don't know how the presentation was made. All we know is that none of our people that our firm represents were involved in that process in any way."
Buzbee stated that they will not make a comment on the settlement with the Texans or Watson individually.
Ashley Solis, the first woman to file suit against Watson, spoke at the press conference to express her feelings toward the NFL and their internal investigation process.
"What do the actions of the NFL say to little girls who have suffered at the hands of someone perceived to have power? That it's not a big deal, that they don't care?" she said. "That's what I've taken from their actions."
For the trying and "emotionally taxing" two-and-a-half years, Solis called out to girls and women who might find themselves in a similar position.
"So instead of that, my actions say something different to those same little girls, no matter how scary, big or powerful someone may seem," she said. "So if anyone has ever tried to abuse their status to overpower you, remind them that they picked the wrong one to try that with."
Buzbee ended the press conference with a message to NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell and the NFL.
"Every victim of sexual assault is watching Rodger Goodell and the NFL right now. And this idea that Mr. Goodell is going to hand it off to someone else, independent, we don't buy it. Mr. Goodell, what will you do? It's never too late to do the right thing. And that's what these women and those watching are expecting."
Watch the full news conference in the video player below.
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The suspension decision came down Monday following the NFL’s investigation into allegations made by two dozen women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment.
The NFL was hoping for a stricter decision and a fine for Watson and will now pursue that outcome via an appeal.
Watch our report from earlier this week when we learned about NFL's appeal:
Watson's is the first case to be heard by Robinson as part of the new league discipline policy agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2020. As per the CBA, violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy are initially determined by a jointly appointed disciplinary officer after serving as the hearing officer.
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