Nike has suspended its endorsement of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the New York Daily News confirmed Wednesday.
Watson faces 22 lawsuits alleging that he sexually assaulted or harassed almost two dozen female masseuses. His first accuser, Ashley Solis, made her identity public and appeared on camera at a press conference on Tuesday.
Nike’s suspension was first reported by CNBC Wednesday morning.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson,” Nike said in a statement provided to the News. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Beats by Dre followed Nike’s lead and also parted ways with Watson on Wednesday, per Front Office Sports.
Solis, flanked by plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee, said Tuesday that she can no longer practice massage due to the trauma caused by Watson’s alleged assault of her on March 30, 2020.
She also said she has experienced frequent panic attacks, anxiety and bouts of depression.
“I’m here to take back the power and take back control,” Solis said. “I’m a survivor of assault and harassment.”
A second accuser, Lauren Baxley, did not attend Tuesday’s press conference but also made her identity public in a letter read aloud by an attorney.
“Every boundary, from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading, you crossed or attempted to cross,” Baxley wrote.
Many of the lawsuits involve allegations that Watson forced women to touch his genitals and to perform oral sex. Another anonymous accuser who has not filed a lawsuit told a similarly disturbing story to Sports Illustrated.
Both Watson, 25, and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied wrongdoing.
Hardin provided testimonials from 18 female masseuses vouching for Watson’s behavior, though that also confirmed Watson has had recent personal contact with at least 40 masseuses — a curious fact in itself.
On Tuesday, Hardin chose not to deny Solis’ and Baxley’s fresh statements, but to smear Buzbee and Solis instead.
Hardin alleged in a statement that Buzbee initially sought $100,000 in “hush money” in February on behalf of Solis before filing the first lawsuit in mid-March.
The language of Nike’s statement in suspending Watson mirrored the NFL’s stance on Tuesday in the wake of Solis’ press conference.
“The allegations are deeply disturbing and we take these issues very seriously,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN Tuesday. “Immediately following news of the first allegations last month, and as has been reported, we initiated an investigation under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. We are continuing to closely monitor all developments in the matter.”
Watson began this offseason by trying to orchestrate a trade away from a dysfunctional Texans franchise. He has said he will never play for Houston again, but now Watson’s ability to play football anywhere in the 2021 NFL season is in jeopardy.
That’s apart from the obvious severe legal ramifications he could face for this alleged predatory behavior.
Several teams had interest in trading for Watson, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league, but clubs have moved on to other options in the wake of these shocking and rampant accusations.
The Carolina Panthers are the most recent example. They had been one of the most aggressive suitors and even did “extensive” due diligence recently, per the Houston Chronicle, before ultimately trading for the Jets’ Sam Darnold on Monday instead.
This is bigger than football, though. And on Wednesday, Nike’s message landed loud and clear.
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
1. Jacksonville (1-15) — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson, Jr.
2. N.Y. Jets (2-14) — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU, Jr.
3. San Francisco from Miami through Houston (4-12) — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St., So.
4. Atlanta (4-12) — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida, Jr.
5. Cincinnati (4-11-1) — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU, Jr.
6. Miami from Philadelphia (4-11-1) — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama, Jr.
It's scary that a 10-win team with such a good coach and plenty of young talent also has four picks in the top 50. The Dolphins are desperate for wide receivers who can get open and it's clear that will be the target here (or they wouldn't have made this deal with the Eagles). Miami mimics Cincinnati by reuniting a top receiving prospect with his old college quarterback. A healthy Waddle is the most explosive all-around athlete at receiver in this class and his addition will only expedite former Crimson Tide teammate Tua Tagovailoa's development. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
7. Detroit (5-11) — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon, Jr.
In most drafts, Sewell would be the consensus No. 1 overall pick and he'd pair nicely with Taylor Decker, giving the Lions bookend tackles. The 2019 Outland Trophy winner — he opted out last season due to the threat of COVID-19 — isn't flawless, but his ceiling is as high as they come (he'll only be 21 in October). Top needs: WR, LB, DB
8. Carolina (5-11) — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St., Jr.
9. Denver (5-11) — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St., Jr.
A classic Vic Fangio defense usually features a playmaking linebacker at its core. Parsons is another elite prospect who opted out of the 2020 season, citing "the potential risk to the health and well-being" of his young son due to COVID. He recently dazzled scouts with a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day. This would be the first time in my lifetime the first defensive player off the board lasts this long. Top needs: Edge, OT, LB
10. Dallas (6-10) — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama, Jr.
11. N.Y. Giants (6-10) — Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan, Sr.
The Giants are in need of another pass rushing threat to go opposite Leonard Williams. Paye is already an impressive run defender against the spread offense, which is becoming increasingly important in the NFL, and there are athletic indicators he will continue to improve as a pass rusher. Top needs: OL, Edge, LB
12. Philadelphia from Miami through San Francisco (6-10) — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama, Sr.
Is it me or does it seem like the Eagles are always in need of help at receiver? The Heisman winner took his game to another level after Waddle was sidelined in 2020 — he had 1,300 yards on 72 receptions and 19 touchdowns in his last eight games. The only blemish is his size. Top needs: WR, CB, LB
13. L.A. Chargers (7-9) — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern, Sr.
Signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley is a step in the right direction for a very bad offensive line. Slater opted out this season due to COVID, but handled the mighty Chase Young as a junior while playing left tackle and didn't allow a single sack his last season. He's versatile and talented enough to play all five offensive line positions. He did nothing during his pro day to hurt himself. Top needs: OL, CB, DL
14. Minnesota (7-9) — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech, Sr.
Coach Mike Zimmer didn't hold back when he called his defense the "worst one I've ever had," but the offensive line is priority here considering the Vikings don't have a pick in the second round. Darrisaw would be the first Hokie offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round since 2008 ( Duane Brown). Top needs: OL, S, Edge
15. New England (7-9) — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama, Jr.
16. Arizona (8-8) — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama, Sr.
If you're a fantasy player who is excited about Chase Edmonds' potential as a featured back now that Kenyan Drake has moved on, don't get your hopes up. Harris has evolved into an all-around threat. Of course, he's a powerful runner with his size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), but he's also developed into a great receiver out of the backfield and he's improved significantly in pass-protection. Top needs: CB, RB, OL
17. Las Vegas (8-8) — Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, S, TCU, Jr.
The Raiders must address their atrocious secondary. Moehrig-Woodard's skillset is scheme-proof. He's a hard hitter who led all safeties in pass breakups in each of the past two seasons. Top needs: OT, S, LB
18. Miami (10-6) — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson, Sr.
One way to alleviate the pressure off of a young quarterback is to give him a dynamic running back who is a three-down threat and capable of scoring every time the ball is in his hands. Etienne, a three-time All-American and the ACC's career rushing leader, fits the bill perfectly. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
19. Washington (7-9) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame, Sr.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Taylor Heinicke isn't the quarterback of the future for the Football Team — or Ryan Fitzpatrick for that matter — but there's not a QB on the board worthy of this pick. Owusu-Koramoah is an explosive athlete who can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year also won the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) and was a consensus All-American. Top needs: QB, LB, Edge
20. Chicago (8-8) — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech, Jr.
21. Indianapolis (11-5) — Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia, So.
I expected the Colts to be aggressive seeking their next quarterback in the trade market and they didn't disappoint. The next biggest priority is to continue building their pass rush. Ojulari was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (the nation's top defensive player) with 8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 25 quarterback hurries. He's only scratching the surface of his talent. Top needs: Edge, OT, CB
22. Tennessee (11-5) — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina, Jr.
The Titans will need to address their secondary (after releasing Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Butler) in a major way. Horn — his father Joe was a Pro Bowl wide receiver — is a very talented, uber-aggressive press corner with elite speed, good size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and can make plays in run support. Top needs: WR, CB, DT
23. N.Y. Jets from Seattle (12-4) — Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami, Jr.
If past is prologue, once head coach Robert Saleh has his quarterback situation figured out, he'll focus on building a pass rush. Phillips stepped up in Gregory Rousseau's absence after transferring from UCLA. The former highly-touted recruit is a relentless pass rusher who produced eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 10 games as a Hurricane. Top needs: QB, OT, LB
24. Pittsburgh (12-4) — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC, Jr.
The Steelers are facing difficult decisions at almost every major position after this season, but it's clear the offensive line has to be a priority. Vera-Tucker was one of the best offensive tackles in the country, but could also shine on the interior in the NFL. Top needs: OT, RB, LB
25. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (10-6) — Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn St., So.
26. Cleveland (11-5) — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa, Jr.
The Browns need to upgrade their pass rush outside of Myles Garrett, but they also need to improve their linebacker corps. Collins has the size (6-4, 260), athleticism and positional flexibility that will cause most defensive coordinators to drool. He received the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded by the Football Writers Association of America to the top defensive player in college football. Top needs: LB, Edge, DL
27. Baltimore (11-5) — Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami, So.
Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon are gone. It's been almost two decades since a Hurricane defensive end was taken in the first round ( Jerome McDougle in 2003). Rousseau finished with 15.5 sacks in 13 games as a redshirt freshman, but opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Top needs: Edge, C, LB
28. New Orleans (12-4) — Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue, So.
Emmanuel Sanders' release and no money for free agency might necessitate this move. Moore would be a nice fit opposite a healthy Michael Thomas. An impressive pro day should boost him into the back-end of the first round. Top needs: QB, DB, WR
29. Green Bay (13-3) — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern, Jr.
30. Buffalo (13-3) — Jaylen Mayfield, OL, Michigan, Jr.
Offensive tackle Daryl Williams was resigned, but the Bills still need to address the interior. Mayfield features the versatility and athleticism to thrive in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's system. Top needs: DL, G, CB
31. Kansas City (14-2) — Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas, Jr.
The greatness of Patrick Mahomes has made up for the mediocrity of his offensive line since he became the starter. Joe Thuney was a nice addition at guard. Cosmi is capable of starting at right tackle day one, but has the ability to protect Mahomes' blindside eventually. Top needs: OT, LB, WR