Embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is facing 21 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct against him, is finding support from more than a dozen physical and massage therapists.
Watson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin on Wednesday released testimonials from 18 women who said the claims against the NFL star “are wholly inconsistent with their experiences with him and who they believe him to be.” The women said in separate statements that they never experienced anything that’s being claimed in the various lawsuits.
“Collectively, they have worked with Deshaun more than 130 times over the past five years,” Hardin said in a statement. “These statements show the other side to this story that has been so lacking in the flurry of anonymous complaints filed by opposing counsel.”
Each of the statements has names attached, and each woman who released a statement has worked in the industry for varying numbers of years. Hardin said the women made their statements voluntarily.
“I began providing massage therapy to Deshaun in 2018 and have massaged him at least 40 times since then. I worked with him once or twice a week during the season and as needed during the off season. Early on, he said he wanted me to focus on his hamstrings (he had a trainer that worked on his upper body) and just to work the lactic acid out of his legs,” Jas Brooks, a medical staff member for Team USA track and field team and a licensed massage therapist, said.
“This included the groin, glutes and feet. He never asked me any questions and hardly ever spoke at all. In all that time, I never had a single uncomfortable or inappropriate experience with Deshaun.”
Kya Hillman, a retired disabled veteran, said she worked on Watson three times between October and December 2020.
“I worked with Deshaun to give him full body scrubs and body wraps. At no time did he act inappropriate with me. If he did, I would have talked with him and handled it with him,” she said in her statement.
Other women described Watson as professional, respectful and “the sweetest guy.”
Norma Reyna, the former director of Memorial Hermann’s massage school and former supervisor of Houston Methodist’s massage program, has worked with NFL and MLB athletes, as well as Brazilian soccer players. She said Watson was “cordial” and “never observed” him acting inappropriately.
“Glutes, lower abs, psoas and adductors are very common areas for athletes — both males and females — to request their therapists to work on. You must release the psoas and gluteal muscles to release tension in the lower back,” she said. “There’s a proper and professional way to address this area with proper draping and communication. When working the adductors and groin/pelvic area, it is not uncommon to accidentally graze the penis, but you don’t engage it. I teach my students to use a firmer touch or to move to a different area if a client gets aroused during a session, which sometimes happens.”
Reyna also took issue with how the women accusing Watson of inappropriate conduct were handling the situation.
“There’s a professional way to deal with it. If a therapist feels uncomfortable at any time during the session, he or she has the ability to end the session and immediately file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations and vice versa. You don’t get a lawyer and file a lawsuit or go to the news media. You file a complaint immediately,” she said.
It’s the first major backing Watson has received since the first lawsuit was filed. No criminal charges have been filed and the NFL was investigating the claims.
Tony Buzbee, the lawyer for Watson’s accusers, released a statement Tuesday night on a “worry” he has with the possibility of giving information to authorities that could potentially lead to criminal charges against Watson.
“Our team has been roundly criticized because these numerous brave women haven’t filed formal criminal complaints with HPD (although we have provided info to other organizations.) Here is my worry: When I ran for Houston mayor against the CURRENT mayor, I called for the resignation of the former police chief. I was thus reluctant initially in these important cases to provide info to HPD, at least while Art Acevedo was the Police Chief—even though my brother in law is a long-term HPD officer,” Buzbee wrote on social media.
“Mr. Acevedo has now left Houston for Miami. Yet, I’ve since learned that my legal opponent, Mr. Hardin, has a son who is on of the exclusive Command Staff of HPD. I am not saying in any way that Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, Mr. Hardin, has a son who has a position that would compromise HPD and its investigation. I support his service, along with all Houston police officers — I think the rank and file know that. But, I am saying that me and my clients will go elsewhere to provide our evidence to investigative authorities. Stand by.”
“It’s a legal process so we’re certainly respectful of that,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said on the Texans’ All-Access podcast. “We certainly take them very seriously. The allegations, what’s been discussed, are certainly troubling. Organizationally that’s not something that we can condone, those types of actions. But, again, we’ll let the legal process take care of itself.”
Hardin has maintained his client’s innocence.