CultureWednesday 03.23.22

Lindsay Jones on Deshaun Watson and the NFL’s Latest Scandal

Want to show your appreciation for The Recount's coverage?
Tip us!Tip us!

The NFL’s Cleveland Browns acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans last week, despite a string of allegations against the superstar quarterback. Watson was sued by 22 separate women last year, all massage therapists, who accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The women’s civil lawsuits are still in play, but a grand jury cleared Watson of criminal charges related to sexual misconduct allegations on March 11. Houston traded him to Cleveland in exchange for five draft picks, as the Browns signed him to a new five-year deal worth $230 million – a record for most guaranteed money in league history. The sum represents $80 million more than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got when he finalized his contract extension last week. On top of it all, Browns ownership was willing to protect the bulk of Watson’s earnings by paying him only $1 million next season. The upshot: If Watson gets suspended next season, he’ll basically lose less than $60,000 a game and have his fortune waiting for him in subsequent years.

Sketchy recruiting is nothing new for the Browns, who also signed running back Kareem Hunt three months after a video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman, and defensive tackle Malik McDowell, who was charged with assaulting a police officer.

LZ and Will are joined by Lindsay Jones, a senior writer for The Athletic covering the NFL, to discuss the controversy, and how fans and the NFL are responding. What happens when your team signs a player accused of such crimes?

The Long Game