Hours after two judges ruled that at least nine women accusing Texans star Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct must publicly identify themselves to continue civil lawsuits against the quarterback, Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, defended his client in a Friday press conference. In between explanations about Watson's use of Instagram to hire private massage therapists, more than a dozen of which have alleged assault or misconduct by the quarterback, Hardin also said "we don't know what happened for sure" and "some consensual encounters" occurred between Watson and accusing masseuses.
"I am not about to accuse 22 women of ill motive or lying," Hardin told reporters. "All I know is we're supposed to start out believing Deshaun did not do it ... That presumption on social media is pretty much gone ... (and) we do not believe these allegations."
Hardin called upon the media to dissect the testimony of the accusing women, who have combined to file 22 different lawsuits against Watson. Thirteen of the women have now been ordered to reveal their identity by Wednesday, and two -- Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley -- came forward this week to publicly accuse Watson.
"I trust and hope once you find out who these people are," Hardin said, "you will do the type investigation of them as you do of us."
Hardin also defended Watson's use of social media, specifically Instagram, to recruit masseuses for private therapy sessions.
"(He's) getting two to three massages a week. The math I do on that is anywhere between 120 to 140 to 150 massages a year," Hardin said. "In the year 2020, all of a sudden spas shut down. Nobody was getting massages unless they came up with an ad hoc way to do it. The massage world during the pandemic changed ... Millennials live on Instagram. They do business on it. Deshaun lives on Instagram. He does business transactions on Instagram."
Hardin admitted, however, that "we don't know what happened for sure" with each of the accusing women. And while he insisted Watson "did not use coercion" or "his position of power" to "intimidate" masseuses into sexual activity, he did acknowledge Watson could have engaged sexually with multiple therapists.
"Were there sometimes some consensual encounters? Yes."
Rachel Lewis, a lawyer representing Watson as part of Hardin's firm, also defended the QB during the press conference.
"Deshaun can't eat or sleep," she said. "He's worked so hard for his name. He cares deeply for his communities and takes every opportunity to give back. To see how these women and Mr. (Tony) Buzbee (the plaintiffs attorney) are trying to tear him down is upsetting."
Watson has not been criminally charged for any of the allegations, all of which he's denied. The NFL has stated twice that it is investigating the QB for a potential violation of its personal conduct policy, calling the allegations -- all of which originally stemmed from anonymous civil suits -- "deeply disturbing."