BEREA, Ohio — For the first time since being accused by 22 different women of sexual misconduct, Deshaun Watson spoke at a press conference on Friday as he was introduced as the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
And while the three-time Pro Bowl signal-caller wouldn't discuss specifics of the accusations against him, which primarily come from massage therapists in the Houston area, he did maintain his innocence.
"I never assaulted, I never disrespected and I never harassed any woman in my life," Watson said, echoing a similar sentiment on multiple occasions. "I wasn't raised that way. My mom and my aunties didn't raise me that way over the course of my life. That's not in my DNA. As far as the details of the things that they're alleging, I can't speak on that because there's an ongoing investigation. But in the future, once everything's resolved, I would sit down and love to talk about it."
Watson's press conference came one day after a grand jury in Brazoria County, Texas, declined to indict Watson on sexual misconduct charges. Earlier this month, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to pursue nine charges against Watson in connection to the allegations.
While Watson doesn't currently face any legal charges regarding the allegations, he does face civil lawsuits and potential punishment from the NFL. Asked if he planned to fight the civil suits or potentially settle them, the 26-year-old said that he plans on fighting the cases.
"That's not my intent," Watson answered when asked if he would settle the lawsuits. "My intent is to clear my name as much as possible."
In a lengthy opening statement, Browns general manager Andrew Berry detailed the process that led to the team being comfortable acquiring the NFL's 2020 passing yards leader.
"It was through this really five-month odyssey and the information that we were able to amass, the reference work and obviously working through due process and the legal process that got us comfortable pursuing a trade for Deshaun. I want to touch on, a little bit, the work that we did do," Berry said. "First, it starts with, like I mentioned the reference work, understanding and talking to people who knew Deshaun intimately, interacted with him frequently at different phases of his life -- whether that’s when he was in Gainesville at Clemson -- and then really multiple people up and down the Texans organization across multiple leadership regimes.
"We used independent investigative resources within the Harris County and Houston law enforcement community in order to get an unbiased and well-rounded and comprehensive perspective on the allegations. We didn’t just want it to be one-sided. We used third-party legal counsel that allowed us to analyze all the information that we were able to collect and amass.
"I should note, because I know a lot has been said about this, we were advised by our attorneys against reaching out directly to the 22 women out of concern that it would be considered interfering with a criminal investigation. It’s this among several other reasons that made it important for us to use independent investigative resources that were unbiased and comprehensive so that we could get a full picture and full perspective of the criminal and civil cases. It was through this time and through this work, and what we learned about Deshaun the person, what we learned about the civil and criminal proceedings, and, obviously, working through due process and legal process that got us comfortable with Deshaun the person.
"We realize, we’re not naïve to the fact that there are many people who aren’t as comfortable with this transaction as we are today, but this is something that we, a trade that we made to be evaluated over the long run. We do think there’s a strong and detailed body of work about Deshaun. We do have faith in him as a person. We’re not naïve to the fact that there’s still work to do. I think Deshaun would be the first to tell you as we integrate him into our organization and the Cleveland community, but we do have faith that Deshaun will not only meet the expectations that we have of any player that we bring into the organization -- but exceed them. We are looking forward to having Deshaun as our starting quarterback for hopefully a long period of time.”