Deshaun Watson returns, and women who accused him will be there

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee hasn’t been to a Houston Texans game in more than 10 years but has arranged to get a suite at Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns for one big reason:

Some of his clients asked to attend the game.

They are the same clients who sued Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

And even though almost all of those cases have resolved with confidential settlements, they still want to make their presence known as Watson returns to Houston to face his old team after serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

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“They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter,” Buzbee told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “I was proud of them for that. I have made that opportunity available to them.  I haven’t been to a Texans game in over 10 years. But, because they are going I will go as well.’

Buzbee said he expects 10 or fewer of the women to attend.

“I think it’s important to note each of these women is different,” Buzbee said in an email. “You can’t paint them with a broad brush. I would never encourage any of them to attend. Some never want to hear WATSON’s name again. Others have put it in the past. Some are still angry. Others are defiant. Makes me proud they want to stand up and be counted rather than quietly go away. Good on them!”

The Athletic reported on this decision earlier as Watson prepares to play in a regular-season game for the first time in nearly two years. His playing career went sideways in March 2021, when the first of 26 lawsuits were filed against him by women who made similar claims about his conduct during massage sessions, which included allegations of unwanted touching and his conspicuous use of towels. Watson denied wrongdoing and never was charged with a crime after two grand juries declined to indict him.

Of the 26 lawsuits, 23 were settled and one was dropped shortly after being filed in March 2021. Two remain active, including one filed in October that Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has already slammed in court documents.

Hardin declined to comment when contacted by USA TODAY Sports about the women attending the game Sunday.

Buzbee’s firm also settled claims by 30 women against the Texans after accusing Watson’s former team of enabling his behavior when it knew or should have known about it.

After sitting out the 2021 season, Watson was traded to the Browns in March and was suspended by the NFL in August. The league investigated the allegations and reached a settlement on his discipline with the NFL Players Association.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

This post appeared first on USA TODAY