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Deshaun Watson, Browns face split judgment in court of public opinion

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 16:04:15-04

CLEVELAND — Last week a Houston grand jury declined to return nine criminal charges against the Browns' newest franchise quarterback.

Deshaun Watson still faces 22 active civil lawsuits from women accusing him of various acts of sexual misconduct during massage therapy appointments. The alleged acts range from groping, inappropriate touching, kissing, and forcing women to perform sexual acts.

“He could still face monetary damages for the claims that were made, if those claims are proven in a civil trial,” said Case Western Reserve University law professor Bryan Adamson.

Outside of court, Adamson said that Watson has a steep public relations mountain to climb and expects that the Browns will make a quick attempt to get in front of it.

“We're going to see a lot of the construction and creation of a narrative around ‘this is all behind him and we are moving forward with our franchise QB and we all should embrace and support,’” said Adamson.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said it has received more than 1,000 donations from around the county since the news broke about the Watson trade. The organization issued the following statement Saturday regarding Watson joining the Browns:

"Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is disappointed by the decision to add Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns team.

This story is triggering for far too many of our friends and neighbors. To survivors, we say we see you and we believe you. Your story matters. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available 24/7/365 online or by calling/texting (216) 619-6192.

To the community, we say we hear your outrage. We feel it too. Every click. Every post. Every tweet. Every donation sends a clear message – the Cleveland community supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

We are encouraged by the outpouring of support we have experienced. Thank you.

Please continue to funnel your energy into ongoing support of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Join our movement now:

  • Participate in our upcoming ambassador training to gain skills in preventing sexual violence and allying with survivors
  • Invite Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s prevention programming to your school, work or place of worship
  • Invest in the work and mission of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center by donating now.

Breaking down the silence around sexual violence is a big job, but together, we can create a community that supports survivors, promotes prevention and advocates for change."

Donisha Greene, the Director of Community Engagement at CRCC, told News 5, “It lets us know that we have more work to do. That a rape culture does exist and it is perpetuated with stories like this.”

She explained it's also generating discussion around the topic of sexual assault and survivor healing. Donations pouring in from around the country will help support the organization's mission and services.

“The story of Deshaun Watson is not surprising. But what it does do is it helps elevate this conversation in a meaningful way. We want survivors to know we are here for them if they feel triggered by hearing this story,” Greene said. “We’re moving the needle in a meaningful way. It’s enabling survivors to jumpstart their healing. And the donations are putting resources where they’re needed.”

A big part of the situation surrounding Watson is the Browns’ reputation itself.

Those who responded to our poll on Twitter were closely divided on the decision; 48.6% of users are glad the team is acquiring Watson, and 51.4% are not, based on results as of Friday night.

Robyn Lockner is an administrator for the Cleveland Browns Women’s Group on Facebook, which has 6,200 worldwide fans.

“I have women who have been lifelong members in the group, they’re season ticket holders and are done with the Browns,” said Lockner. “Is that [Watson] the face of the Browns? I don't want my grandchildren growing up and that being a mentor.”

Lockner’s sentiments align with fellow group administrator Annastasia Meadors, who lives in Tennessee, but she said there are some women happy about Friday’s announcement in the women’s group.

“The other quarterbacks we've had haven't done it and with Deshaun Watson and his background, they're star-struck,” said Meadors.

RELATED: Texans QB Deshaun Watson changes his mind, will waive no-trade clause and sign with Browns

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