Sports | April 7, 2021 11:43 am

Nike Pauses Deshaun Watson’s Endorsement Deal as NFL Star’s Off-Field Problems Grow Worse

Watson is facing at least 22 civil cases and a minimum of two criminal complaints related to allegations of sexual misconduct

Deshaun Watson
Quarterback Deshaun Watson walks the field during warmups prior to a game.
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Currently facing at least 22 civil cases and a minimum of two criminal complaints related to allegations of sexual misconduct towards multiple women, star quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing the ever-increasing possibility he will not be playing NFL football next season.

Even if he does, it won’t be as a Nike endorser, as the sportswear company placed its deal with the Houston Texans quarterback on hold on Wednesday, according to CNBC. “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement.

Nike cutting ties with Watson comes the day after one of his accusers, Ashley Solis, revealed her identity and spoke publicly for the first time. Talking on Tuesday, Solis said she suffers from “panic attacks, anxiety and depression” due to Watson’s alleged sexual assault in March 2020 and said he should be held accountable.

“I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman,” Solis said. “I am seeking justice not just on behalf of myself but for all survivors. This is about having my voice heard … People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false.”

Prior to filing her civil lawsuit against Watson, Solis and her attorney Tony Buzbee approached the star QB and his legal team about setting the matter outside of court for $100,000 “in hush money,” according to Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin.

Hardin, who has called the allegations “meritless,” released a statement including copies of February emails between Buzbee’s firm and Scott Gaffield, an attorney for Watson, discussing the proposed $100,000 settlement.

“We don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong with regards to Ms. Solis, but we are nevertheless happy to continue the conversation around a reasonable settlement figure because we believe he can learn a lesson about having put himself in this situation,” Gaffield wrote on Watson’s behalf.

Gaffield’s statement is a bit contradictory as it seems to say that while the facts didn’t prove Watson engaged in any illegal behavior, the quarterback’s camp was still willing to consider paying to settle the case.

“Amazingly, Hardin’s team voluntarily disclosed this communication, which otherwise was confidential and never meant for public consumption,” according to ProFootballTalk. “It shows that Watson’s representatives viewed the claims made by Ashley Solis as something that weren’t frivolous but that instead provided a useful opportunity to teach Watson a ‘lesson about having put himself in this situation.’”

With the Houston Police Department and the NFL now investigating the claims against Watson, he may soon find himself collecting paid leave on the Commissioner Exempt list, a device the league uses to handle players who are facing charges or allegations that cannot be ignored that have not resulted in a criminal conviction or civil verdict one way or the other.

“The allegations are deeply disturbing and we take these issues very seriously,” NFL VP of communications Brian McCarthy told PFT on Tuesday. “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.”