CultureTuesday 03.22.22

Michelle Beadle on the Deshaun Watson Controversy

Superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns last week, despite a string of allegations against him. Watson was sued by 22 different women last year, all massage therapists, who accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault. One plaintiff called him “a serial predator.”

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, fully-guaranteed five-year deal worth a record-shattering $230 million – the most guaranteed money in league history. That’s $80 million dollars 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 lose less than $60,000 a game and have his fortune waiting for him in subsequent years.

This 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 Michelle Beadle, host of The Athletic’s “What Did I Miss?” podcast, 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