Deshaun Watson maintained his innocence and strongly denied committing any sexual misconduct despite allegations made by 22 women against the Cleveland Browns’ new starting quarterback.
Wearing a dark pinstriped suit and orange tie at his introductory news conference on Friday, Watson showed little emotion while saying he’s done nothing illegal.
“I’ve never assaulted or disrespected or harassed a woman in my life,” Watson said, flanked at the dais by Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski. “That’s not how I was raised. I’ve never done these things people are alleging.”
Berry defended the team’s controversial decision to trade for Watson, who has been accused by two dozen massage therapists of various sexual activity during private sessions. He has always claimed any sex was consensual.
“We as an organization know that this transaction has been very difficult for many people, particularly women in our community,” Berry said. “We realize that it has triggered a range of emotions. And that, as well as the nature of the allegations, weighed heavily on all of us.
“It was because of the weight of the anticipated reaction and the nature of the allegations that really pushed us to do as much work as possible internally and externally in terms of understanding the cases and who Deshaun was as a person.
“We do have faith and confidence in Deshaun as a person.”
Watson dismissed needing counseling because he feels he’s been falsely accused.
“I don’t have a problem,” he said. “I don’t have an issue.”
While Watson hasn’t been indicted by two grand juries in Texas on criminal charges, he’s still facing civil lawsuits. He has no intention of settling the lawsuits and that his only goal “is to clear my name.”
Berry described the Browns’ investigation as “a five-month odyssey” that resulted in the team feeling comfortable enough with Watson as a person to trade for him — and in extension make him the face of their franchise.
The Browns lured Watson to Cleveland with a record-setting $230 million, fully guaranteed contract, which includes a $1 million base salary in the first season in the event he’s suspended by the NFL.
The league has an ongoing investigation into his behavior and whether he violated the personal conduct policy.
Watson said the Browns’ contract had nothing to do with him waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland.
The Browns traded three first-round draft picks and six picks overall to Houston for Watson.
On Thursday, a second grand jury in Texas decided not to indict Watson on one of the original criminal complaints of sexual misconduct. Watson being cleared by another grand jury had triggered his pursuit by the Browns and several other teams hoping to sign the three-time Pro Bowler.