WASHINGTON, DC (March 22, 2022) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) wrote to Cleveland Browns Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam requesting that they reveal publicly what specific conditions they have placed on its new quarterback, Deshaun Watson, to prevent him from engaging in sexual abuse and exploitation. Mr. Watson faces 22 active civil suits accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct.
“Mr. Watson’s trade to the Cleveland Brown may be historic for monetary reasons, but never in history has such a contract been extended to an individual with such a highly questionable track record of sexual misconduct,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“The 22 civil suits are not merely ‘some legal proceedings’ or ‘complex factors,’ as a release from the Browns franchise has stated, but instead represent survivors who have accused Mr. Watson of sexual abuse and sexploitation. Apparently, none of Watson’s many accusers were interviewed by representatives of the Browns franchise before his contract was signed. By choosing to ignore their accusations, the Browns’ owners are sending a clear message that the Cleveland Browns does not take sexual assault and abuse seriously. In our letter to the Browns’ owners, we ask ‘Will Mr. Watson be suspended or terminated if there is another sexual assault allegation raised against him while employed by the Cleveland Browns?’
“Sexual assault and violence against women are a pervasive blight on our society. By ignoring these pending cases and even rewarding a potential serial abuser, the Browns’ owners are fostering a culture of silence which only furthers the normalization of sexual violence against women.
“While we reserve final judgment and respect the right to due process, until all 22 cases are resolved, we are calling on the Browns’ owners to publicly answer what steps they are taking to ensure Mr. Watson will not engage in sexual abuse and exploitation while a Browns’ player.
“After all, the Browns’ owners have already violated the NFL’s own policy, which states: ‘We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful. … But even if the conduct does not result in a criminal conviction, players found to have engaged in any of the following conduct will be subject to discipline.’
“Accordingly, we are reissuing our call to the NFL to take seriously matters of sexual exploitation by improving and consistently applying its policy regarding sexual abuse and exploitation. It is simply unacceptable that high-profile players like Mr. Watson are not held to a clear, rigorous, and consistently applied standard that prioritizes the rights and well-being of those who are being sexually abused and exploited,” Hawkins concluded.