Sports | April 30, 2021 11:00 am

Roger Goodell Speaks on Deshaun Watson Allegations for the First Time

In an ESPN interview, the NFL commissioner called the accusations "concerning"

Roger Goodell with Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson with Roger Goodell at the 2017 NFL Draft.
Elsa/Getty Images

On a night that saw him call the names of three quarterbacks (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance) to open the 2021 NFL Draft, commissioner Roger Goodell also spoke about troubling allegations lodged against a QB who has already been in the league for the first time.

Since allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by Deshaun Watson toward massage therapists surfaced in mid-March, more than 20 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Houston Texans quarterback; the NFL and the Houston Police Department are currently conducting investigations.

While the NFL has not suspended Watson or placed him on the Commissioner Exempt list, the league is certainly following the developments regarding the 25-year-old star.

Speaking with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg during the network’s pre-NFL Draft broadcast Thursday night, Goodell addressed the allegations against Watson. “We take that very seriously,” Goodell said. “Those are very concerning to us.”

Goodell also spoke about the ongoing investigations into Watson’s conduct. “We’re obviously following that and looking at that ourselves, independently,” he said. “There are important steps that we will be taking as part of our personal conduct policy. When we get to that point, we will certainly make a decision.”

In a legal filing earlier this month addressing all the civil lawsuits on the books against the star QB, Watson’s legal team strongly rebutted the abuse accusations.

“These lawsuits are replete with mischaracterizations of Mr. Watson’s conduct,” according to the filing. “These range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous. Importantly, only two of the 22 lawsuits allege that Mr. Watson forced any type of sexual activity — an allegation Mr. Watson again vehemently denies. And even at this early stage of the litigation, the evidence obtained by the defense clearly supports Mr. Watson’s denial of these allegations of force.”

Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead lawyer, also didn’t mince any words when speaking to The New York Times. “I truly believe that this is a cash grab against a wealthy athlete,” he said. “If you’re asking, ‘Are you saying that all 22 are lying about whether he committed sexual misconduct?’ I sure am. I’m totally comfortable that if there is a jury trial one day, a jury will find every one of these accusations false. But if we have to resort to the court, it’s a long way away.”

Guilty or not, Watson has already lost endorsement deals with a number of companies, including Nike.