Nike has suspended its endorsement deal with Deshaun Watson amid the sexual assault and inappropriate behavior allegations made against the Houston Texans quarterback, the company told CNBC on Wednesday.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement to the television network.
Twenty-two women have filed lawsuits against Watson over the past month. The lawsuits allege a series of illicit actions by Watson toward women during massage appointments, including obscene gestures, refusing to cover his genitals and forcing oral sex.
On Tuesday, Ashley Solis publicly spoke about her allegations, saying Watson “robbed” her of the feeling that she was healing people as a massage therapist.
Watson’s brand partnerships also include Rolex, Beats by Dre and local partnerships with H-E-B and Reliant Energy. He also joined Lefty’s, a cheesesteak franchise, opening a restaurant in Houston near NRG Stadium in 2020.
The NFL has launched an investigation into Watson under its personal conduct policy, and NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy on Tuesday called the allegations against the quarterback “deeply disturbing.” The Houston Police Department also has an open investigation into Watson, without specifying what he has been accused of.
Watson has publicly denied any wrongdoing, and Rusty Hardin, whose law firm is representing Watson, said last month that he believes “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.” Hardin said in a statement last week that he and Watson will “fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”
In response to Tuesday’s news conference, Hardin’s law firm said in a statement that Tony Buzbee’s law firm “sought $100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.”
Last week, 18 women released statements through Hardin, saying they have worked with the Texans quarterback and that he “never made them feel uncomfortable or demanded anything outside the scope of a professional massage.”
Watson’s attorney said the statements were voluntary and were from women who have collectively “worked with Deshaun more than 130 times over the past five years.”
On Tuesday, Buzbee said one of the women who gave one of those statements also sent a direct message concerning Watson, saying she stopped working with him because she was “hearing too much stuff about him messing with other people.”
“That’s two different stories,” Buzbee said. “Now, am I suggesting that the 18 women had bad experiences? I don’t know. Am I suggesting there’s a reason they came forward? I don’t know. That’s a question for you to ask. But what I do know is that what was said publicly by this one individual and what was said privately were two completely different things.”