Nike distances itself from NFL star after women’s accusations

Nike has suspended its multiyear endorsement deal with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson amid allegations by multiple women that the NFL star assaulted them.

The 22 women, all of whom work in the health and wellness industry, charge that Watson exposed himself during massage sessions last year and directed them to touch inappropriate areas of his body. The suits include allegations of sexual assault, civil assault or intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson,” Nike said Wednesday in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Watson denies any wrongdoing, and his attorney has said that “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.”

Watson, 25, signed his Nike deal in 2017 just before the NFL draft, in which he was selected by the Texans. Nike has not disclosed the terms and payments of the Watson endorsement deal. Watson also has deals with Rolex and Beats by Dre. Details of those commercial arrangements remain private. 

Rolex and Apple’s Beats by Dre have not said whether they will freeze or cancel their endorsement deals with Watson. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Two women reveal their identities

Of the 22 women making accusations against Watson, two are alleging he sexually assaulted them, and one is accusing him of intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The remaining women are accusing him of civil assault. 

Houston massage therapist Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, two of the women suing Watson, revealed their identities this week. 

“Deshaun Watson assaulted and harassed me on March 30, 2020, in my own home, doing what I love most: Massage therapy,” Solis said in a news conference. She added that she replays “the incident over and over in my head, as if I’m trying to wake up from some horrible nightmare, only that nightmare is real.” 

Solis is accusing Watson of civil assault. Although it’s not clear which lawsuit Baxley filed, she alleged in a letter read at the press conference that Watson exposed himself and touched her hand with his genitals.

Watson has a four-year, $ 160 million contract with the Texans. The team’s front office hasn’t said whether they plan to release Watson, but Nick Caserio, the team’s general manager, said on the Texans’ podcast last month that the organization is taking the women’s allegations “very seriously.”

“The allegations, what’s been discussed, are certainly troubling,” Caserio said. “Organizationally, that’s not something that we can condone, those types of actions. We’ll let the legal process take care of itself.”

The NFL said it is investigating the allegations, while the Houston Police Department said it’s looking into one of the alleged incidents.

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