Days after Ashley Solis became the first woman to publicly accuse Texans star Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct, prompting Nike and other endorsement partners to suspend their deals with the quarterback, two judges ruled Friday that nine others alleging assault or inappropriate conduct must identify themselves by Wednesday. Watson is currently facing 22 civil lawsuits, and two Houston-area district court hearings Friday covered 13 of them, as ESPN reported, with plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee and Watson attorney Rusty Hardin agreeing to have all but three accusing women come forward.
Before Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier, of the 113th District Court in Houston, ruled that nine of the women must reveal their identities, all nine volunteered to do so, according to Buzbee. The plaintiffs attorney, who spoke alongside Solis at a press conference earlier this week, originally intended to preserve his clients' anonymity. Concealing identities is common in cases of alleged assault, Buzbee said, per ESPN's Sarah Bishop, and Solis has reportedly already received threats in the wake of identifying herself.
Hardin, Watson's attorney, countered Buzbee's comments by accusing the plaintiffs' legal team of using anonymity to "kill the reputation of our client."
"While I understand that anonymity often is used as a shield for victims," he said, per ESPN, "Mr. Buzbee is using it as a sword. While shielding his clients from public scrutiny, Mr. Buzbee continues to use their anonymous allegations to destroy Mr. Watson. This is simply not right. And we look forward to resolving these matters in court."
Buzbee had his own response to those remarks, reportedly calling Hardin's efforts a "blatantly transparent attempt to further traumatize, humiliate and embarrass brave women who have come forward to seek justice for their assault, sexual assault, and harassment at the hands of a serial predator."
Watson has not been criminally charged regarding any of the allegations, all of which he's denied; they allege a years-long pattern of abuse to private massage therapists. The NFL has twice confirmed an investigation into the Pro Bowl quarterback, who's coming off a career season and is just a year removed from signing a four-year, $160 million contract extension. The league has not yet acted in response to the allegations but has called them "deeply disturbing" and promised to "closely monitor all developments."