Nike Suspends Endorsement of NFL Star Deshaun Watson Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Nike has suspended its endorsement deal with Deshaun Watson.

The sportswear giant confirmed the move, which was first reported by CNBC, in an email to FN. Over the past few months, 22 women have filed civil lawsuits against the Houston Texans quarterback, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct.

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson,” Nike wrote in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Represented by lawyer Tony Buzbee, the nearly two dozen women claimed that Watson had displayed a “disturbing pattern” of behavior during massage and therapy sessions. On Tuesday, Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to sue the NFL star on March 16, spoke publicly about suffering from “panic attacks, anxiety and depression” following a purported incident with Watson last year in March.

“I got into massage therapy to heal people — to heal their minds and bodies, to bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that,” she said in a statement at a news conference yesterday. “He took that away from me; he tainted a profession in which I take enormous pride … I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on me emotionally and physically, and I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on these other survivors.”

At the news conference, lawyer Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, who works at Buzbee’s firm, also read a letter written by another of the women who has accused Watson of sexual assault. In her statement, Lauren Baxley called Watson “a predator with power” and alleged he touched her inappropriately multiple times during a massage session.

“There is trauma associated with unwanted sexual contact and assault in a place that’s meant to bring peace and therapy, but there are even deeper terrors that you have brought into my life,” she wrote in the letter.

Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, has denied the allegations and called them “meritless.” In a statement on Tuesday, Hardin claimed that Buzbee reached out in February seeking $100,000 in “hush money” on behalf of Solis in order to settle the matter.

Yesterday, the NFL also issued a statement: “The allegations are deeply disturbing, and we take these issues very seriously. 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, who played college football at Clemson University in South Carolina, signed with Nike shortly before he was selected by the Texans with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. His brand partnerships also include luxury watch manufacturer Rolex and audio company Beats by Dre, which has also reportedly ended its relationship with the pro footballer.

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