Since the issue first emerged more than a month ago, the league office had remained publicly silent on the controversy surrounding Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. On Saturday, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent broke that silence during an appearance on FOX Sports Radio.
“I’m just praying for the young man, personally, today,” Vincent told LaVar Arrington, Plaxico Burress, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. “I’m praying for him and his family. I’m praying for the young ladies that have come out. This is not good for anybody, forget the sport.
“But I think we’ve learned that every situation’s different. They’re delicate. You make sure that folks, whether it’s the accuser, the victim, whoever it may be, that there’s a due process in place. And I think we’ve learned that over time, not that we’ve rushed in the past, but I think we’ve learned from the different cases that we’ve seen with this particular subject matter, let the due process take care of itself, then that’s up to Lisa [Friel] and her team to now make the proper recommendations to what direction the Commissioner and the Commissioner’s office should take.”
Friel quickly launched an investigation, by sending a supposedly confidential letter to attorney Tony Buzbee, who then posted it on social media. At least two of Buzbee’s clients reportedly are willing to speak to Friel as part of her investigation.
There are different kinds of due process in situations like this, from the civil case to the criminal case (if one is pursued) to the league’s internal investigation. The league decided in the aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle to no longer defer to the handling of the situation by the criminal process. With Watson facing 22 civil claims of sexual misconduct, it’s unclear whether the league will wait for those cases to be resolved before taking action against him.
One thing Vincent didn’t address is the looming possibility that Watson will be placed on the Commissioner Exempt list while these 22 civil cases work their way through the justice system. The sheer number of claims makes it very difficult for the league to do nothing, if these cases are still pending when training camp comes around.
So even though Vincent became the first person from the league to speak publicly about the Watson situation, there’s still plenty more that needs to be said and done before anyone will know when and if Watson’s football career will continue before the 22 civil lawsuits pending against him are resolved, either by settlement or verdict.