Lawyer: NFL not respecting women suing Watson

Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the 22 women suing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, expressed concern on Wednesday over how the National Football League is handling its investigation. The lawsuits allege sexual assault and inappropriate conduct.

Buzbee, in speaking to Fox 26 in Houston, said “some of the women did not feel like they were being respected” during their first three meetings with NFL investigators, which he told Fox led to him attending a fourth meeting between the league’s investigative group and his clients.

Buzbee told the television station that four of his clients met with the league’s lead investigator, Lisa Friel, and that he has “probably four more women who want to meet with the NFL” but is not sure whether he’s going to let them speak with the league’s investigators.

In his interview, Buzbee did not say what the league did to potentially make his clients feel disrespected. Watson is being sued by 22 women in civil court, and being investigated by the Houston Police Department, over claims ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual assault of massage therapists from March 2020 until March 2021.

“The allegations are very concerning and the league immediately began investigating the matter under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to ESPN on Thursday. “The investigation includes gathering information, monitoring law enforcement developments and conducting interviews with relevant people willing to participate with counsel present.

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    “Throughout her decades-long career as the chief of the sex crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and most recently as the NFL’s special counsel for investigations for the last six years, Lisa has earned a stellar reputation as a consummate professional who conducts investigations and interviews with compassion and fairness in an effort to determine the truth.”

    Buzbee also told Fox that eight to 10 of his clients have met with the Houston Police Department and that he was pleased with how the Houston PD has worked with his clients. In March, Buzbee had said publicly that he wasn’t comfortable with his clients going to the Houston police. After a complainant went to the Houston Police Department, however, police opened an investigation into allegations against Watson.

    On Thursday, a Houston Police Department spokesperson said the investigation into allegations against Watson is “ongoing” but would not say how many women have spoken with police.

    Buzbee also told Fox there are no plans to settle the case between Watson and the women suing him.

    Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, confirmed Buzbee’s assertion that no settlement talks were taking place. However, in a statement released Thursday afternoon, Hardin suggested Buzbee has attempted to settle the case on several occasions.

    “While we have never approached Mr. Buzbee about a settlement, he has approached us on numerous occasions in the past about the possibility of a settlement,” the statement read. “We have made clear all along that there would be no settlement unless the terms are made public and all participants are allowed to speak in their own defense at all times. We want none of the participants — the plaintiffs or Mr. Watson — muzzled by a settlement agreement. Mr. Buzbee does not feel the same.

    “I am a little bemused by Mr. Buzbee pronouncing piously that his clients are not going to settle and that they want their cases to play out in court. The fact that this whole thing started with his attempt to extort money and avoid court shows that irony is not dead. I guess it has just been raised to a new level.”

    ESPN reporters John Barr and Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.