This article will be updated.
Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, has reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who have filed sexual misconduct lawsuits against him, the lawyer Tony Buzbee announced Tuesday morning. In a statement, Buzbee, who represents Watson’s accusers, said that the terms and amounts of the settlements were confidential and that those cases would be dismissed once finalized.
The first public allegation against Watson of sexual misconduct during a massage appointment was made in March 2021, resulting in an onslaught of lawsuits filed by additional women. Buzbee said that Ashley Solis, who filed the initial lawsuit, was one of the four women who had not settled.
The accusations against Watson involved massage appointments he had when he played for the Houston Texans. He was traded to Cleveland in March after a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to indict him on criminal charges. The Browns gave Watson an unprecedented, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.
But Watson has faced additional pressure in recent weeks, with two new women filing lawsuits against him. Buzbee also said that he planned to add the Texans as a defendant after a New York Times investigation showed that the team provided the venue Watson used for some of the appointments and furnished him with a nondisclosure agreement. As of Tuesday, Buzbee had not added the Texans to the suits, and it was not clear if the team was a party to the settlements. The Texans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The settlements come as the N.F.L. is considering discipline for Watson under its personal conduct policy. League investigators interviewed Watson for four days last month, which is generally one of the final steps in the process. N.F.L. spokesman Brian McCarthy said that the settlements had “no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”
Buzbee referred to Ashley Solis as “one of the heroes of this story.” In her lawsuit, Solis said that Watson purposely touched her with his exposed and erect penis during a March 2020 massage appointment. Watson admitted in a deposition that Solis became “teary-eyed,” and after he left, he apologized over text for her feeling “uncomfortable.” Solis reached out to industry colleagues as well as lawyers for advice on how to respond to what had happened, and in December 2020, she was connected with Buzbee’s law firm.
“Without Ashley Solis, the conduct experienced by these women would likely have continued unfettered,” Buzbee said in his statement. He added that he looked forward to trying the cases of Solis and the three other women who have not settled “in due course.”
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