Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
As the NFL continues to investigate Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, the league insists that his availability for games in 2022 was not a factor in creating Cleveland’s schedule for next season.
NFL VP of Broadcast Planning Mike North spoke with Adam Schein of SiriusXM “Mad Dog Sports Radio” to elaborate.
“The honest answer to your question [about scheduling around Watson’s availability] is no. None of us know. None of us know if he’s going to be here all year, if he’s not going to be here at all. None of us know what is going to happen, and it might not even happen this year, Adam,” North said.
“You know, we could be a year or two away from these things finally settling. The answer to your question is no.”
When pressed further on the topic, North acknowledged that the only element taken into consideration when it came to Watson was his return to Houston to face the Texans would take place on the schedule.
“Other than maybe really thinking about where that actual Cleveland at Houston game fell, there really wasn’t a whole lot of attention paid [regarding Watson],” North said.
Watson is facing 22 active civil lawsuits concerning sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy sessions. The lawsuits describe accounts that range from Watson refusing to cover his genitals to “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.”
There are no trial dates currently set for any of the 22 active civil cases.
The quarterback previously faced multiple criminal complaints; however, he is not facing charges following two separate grand jury hearings. According to Jenny Vrentas of The New York Times, the criminal complaints he previously faced involved similar descriptions, including Watson ejaculating on the massage therapists and either other forms of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
On March 11, a Harris County grand jury returned nine “no” bills on nine criminal complaints against Watson. A Harris County prosecutor said that the decision concluded criminal proceedings against him in that county, and Watson was traded shortly afterward. A grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count on March 24.
Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any woman during his introductory press conference with the Browns.
The NFL’s investigation into Watson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy is still ongoing, and he could still face suspension for this upcoming season or beyond.