As allegations of sexual misconduct swirl around former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, it seems the NFL star had a special predilection for a certain uber-swanky hotel in Houston.
The place is known as The Houstonian, an upscale hotel and club that once served as the residence of former President George H.W. Bush. According to court records, Watson had an account there, liked to get massages there in his room, and had his marketing manager arrange those rooms in advance.
But it’s also where at least two women say he exposed himself to them and touched them with his genitals during massage sessions in 2020.
And now it’s part of the fight for pretrial evidence after 22 women have come forward and sued him accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions, including the two at The Houstonian.
“He takes women in some of these cases to The Houstonian, which (offers luxury massage services to customers), but he’s bringing in women who aren’t even licensed in massage?” the attorney for the women, Tony Buzbee, said to USA TODAY Sports earlier this April.
Watson’s activity there has been subject to increased scrutiny in recent weeks as the pretrial discovery process has intensified. In one case, two weeks after meeting a woman on Instagram, he flew her in from Atlanta to have her give him a massage in his suite at The Houstonian, where she said he exposed himself and caused his genitals to touch her inappropriately on Aug. 28, 2020, according to her lawsuit against him.
Instead of arranging to have this unlicensed therapist come all the way to Houston, there were easier massage options available to him that day when his team, then the Houston Texans – Watson has since been acquired by the Browns — did not practice after holding a scrimmage the day before. The Houstonian offered professional luxury massage spa services at the Solaya Spa & Salon by The Houstonian, just three miles away from the hotel. The hotel even provided a free shuttle to get there and back, plus discounts to all guests in 2020 and gifts with treatments to hotel guests, according to the hotel.
In another case, Watson suggested another unlicensed therapist come to his suite at The Houstonian in July 2020, weeks before Texans training camp opened on Aug. 14, 2020. He first contacted this woman on Snapchat and saw the woman for four sessions from July to September 2020, with Watson’s behavior getting “progressively worse,” including exposing himself, touching her with his genitals, and ejaculating in front of her, according to her lawsuit.
Watson, 26, denies any wrongdoing, and two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges in 10 cases that were reported to the police. But the 22 civil lawsuits march on separately and have proceeded to dig for evidence that still could affect his future even after getting a record contract with the Cleveland Browns worth $230 million guaranteed over five years.
The NFL has said it is monitoring developments and could suspend him for a violation of its personal conduct policy.
“The fact that he went to such lengths to obtain massages tends to bolster the credibility of the plaintiffs,” said Kenneth Williams, professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. “The plaintiffs probably want the jury to think that a star NFL quarterback wouldn’t have to go to such lengths to obtain a massage unless the massages were a pretext for something else.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, recently told a judge at a hearing in Houston they were seeking evidence that shows Watson had a pattern and motive when scheduling these massages through social media – that it was to get sex and not just a massage, even if that desire wasn’t mutual.
Despite an objection from one of Watson’s attorneys, the judge agreed to compel Watson to provide massage location history and payment information from late March 2019 to late March 2020, as well the massage information sought from his Texans contract.
According to the lawsuits, the famed Houstonian was not the only place where this alleged sexual misconduct occurred. Other locations describe incidents at Watson’s house, the house of a woman’s mother, and other incidents in California, Georgia, and Arizona. Most happened in or near Houston from early 2020 to March 2021.
This is a developing story.