(Warning: This column contains graphic details of alleged sexual misconduct.)
Say this for Deshaun Watson: When he chooses partners, he chooses well.
(To be clear, we mean partners he enters into consensual business relationships with; Watson seems to have some issues with consent. Allegedly.)
On Thursday, in the immediate aftermath of the NFL’s announcement of Watson’s final punishment — if we want to call it a punishment — for having two dozen women accuse him of sexual assault and/or impropriety through civil lawsuits, we got a much clearer picture of why the quarterback remains unrepentant, almost defiantly so.
The people he has surrounded himself with are just as unrepentant, almost defiantly so.
The owners of Watson’s team, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Watson’s agent, David Mulugheta, and the general manager of Watson’s team, Andrew Berry, couldn’t be quiet and take what really was a win for Watson and let it ride.
Regardless of the fact that they are unprecedented in terms of NFL player discipline, an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine feels inadequate. Watson was accused by a horrifying number of women and exhibited a pattern of behavior that arbitrator Sue L. Robinson termed “predatory.” The NFL let reporters know it was seeking a full year suspension for Watson.
So 11 games and a monetary fine shouldn’t be seen as anything but a victory for Watson, the Cleveland Browns and Mulugheta.
Most knowledgeable public relations professionals would advise all of them to take the W and keep it moving.
Apparently none of those professionals work with Watson, Haslam, Mulugheta or Berry.
Setting aside the complete opposite reactions Watson put out — in a written statement, Watson said “I apologize once again … I take accountability for the decisions I made,” yet as soon as he got in front of microphones, he declared himself innocent of any wrongdoing — it’s the words of his enablers that underscore why Watson continues to behave the way he has throughout this entire gross affair.
Jimmy Haslam gave away the entire game when he said, “People deserve second chances. Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? And that’s what we’re going to do. And you can say, ‘well that's because he’s a star quarterback.’ Well, of course.”
Anything Haslam said before and after that is useless. The truest thing he said, maybe the only true thing he said, was that: He doesn’t care what Watson was accused of, because he’s a star quarterback and can help his team win.
Asked by a reporter if, knowing what they know now about Watson via information that has come out in lawsuits and through media reporting, the Browns would still make the same landmark deal of three first-round draft picks and a fully guaranteed $230 million contract for Watson, Berry didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“We were thorough; we did make an informed decision,” Berry said.
Keep in mind, in March Berry could not bring himself to say that he believed Watson had not engaged in any wrongdoing.
Dee Haslam went for the impressive double of defending Watson while also infantilizing him when she said of his continued denials, “He’s 26 years old and he’s just getting into counseling, it’s going to take some time.”
It will be news to the many women who swore under oath that Watson exposed himself to them, rubbed his penis on them and/or ejaculated on them that at 23 or 24 years old he just didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.
Haslam also smeared the victimized women when she brought up “sex trafficking” and “massage parlors” when neither of those things have anything to do with Watson. The women involved were not trafficked. They were not at “massage parlors,” which we assume is some antiquated shorthand for places where treatment includes some kind of sexual encounter.
We’re going to say it one more time for Dee Haslam, Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin, and anyone else who hasn’t grasped this concept yet: The two dozen-plus women who made allegations against Deshaun Watson were not sex workers. They are, by and large, licensed massage therapists who owned their own small businesses. They did not consent to a sexual encounter with Watson.
Mulugheta tweeted and then deleted a smear on Robinson, writing, “To be clear, Judge Robinson repeated the NFL’s narrative. She received a brief from the NFL weeks before we had the opportunity to talk to her. In our 1st call with the Judge she referred to ‘Deshaun’s pattern of behavior.’ Her mind was made up before we ever presented a counter.”
To be clear, David, two dozen women who don’t know each other filing lawsuits that all contain incredibly similar stories of mistreatment at the hands of the same person is a pattern of behavior.
Mulugheta’s second try wasn’t any better. This time he wrote — in the span of the same 280-character tweet — that Deshaun is both innocent and remorseful.
On March 25, the day the Browns introduced Watson, we wrote that Watson showed no remorse because the Browns’ trade for him and record-setting contract meant that he never had to do so.
On Thursday, all parties involved only reinforced that theory.
Some people enter into marriages of convenience.
Deshaun Watson enters into marriages of shamelessness.