Nike has suspended its sponsorship deal with Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson after nearly two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against the player.
The move comes one day after Watson’s first accuser, Ashley Solis, also became the first to make a public appearance accusing the star player of sexual misconduct.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in its statement.
In all, 22 women have accused Watson of varying degrees of sexual assault and/or inappropriate behavior.
According to ESPN:
Watson’s brand partnerships also include Rolex, Beats by Dre and local partnerships with H-E-B and Reliant Energy. He also joined Lefty’s, a cheesesteak franchise, opening a restaurant in Houston near NRG Stadium in 2020.
The NFL has launched an investigation into Watson under its personal conduct policy, and NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy on Tuesday called the allegations against the quarterback ‘deeply disturbing.’ The Houston Police Department also has an open investigation into Watson, without specifying what he has been accused of.
Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, has steadfastly maintained his client’s innocence and countered that the lawyers representing Solis had “sought $100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.”
Last week, Hardin disclosed the statements of 18 female massage therapists who said they had worked with Watson and that he had “never made them feel uncomfortable or demanded anything outside the scope of a professional massage.”
On Tuesday, however, Tony Buzbee, who is representing the plaintiffs, said that one of the 18 women who made those statements had also sent him a direct message referencing Watson saying that she had stopped working with the star quarterback because she had been “hearing too much stuff about him messing with other people.”
Watson, who had been seeking a trade before the slew of allegations against him became public, stands an excellent chance of being placed on the NFL Commissioner’s exempt list. A temporary status that would keep Watson off the Active List pending the results of an investigation.
The NFL has not yet said what action they will take.