The Browns’ “extensive” research regarding Deshaun Watson omitted one key figure in the off-field controversy engulfing their new quarterback. The Browns did not contact Tony Buzbee, lawyer for the 22 women who have sued Watson for sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
“The Browns organization did not reach out to me,” Buzbee told John Barr of ESPN.com. “I didn’t expect them to do so, and can understand why they didn’t. But, knowing what I know, they probably should have.”
So why wouldn’t they at least call Buzbee? Even if his skewed version of the events would be discounted by the fact that he has a duty to represent zealously the 22 plaintiffs, doesn’t it make sense to hear it directly from him?
The problem is that, if the Browns had talked to Buzbee, he’d be crowing that they traded for Watson despite everything he told them. It’s a no-win situation for the Browns, because Buzbee’s strategy would be to complain about whatever the Browns ultimately did.
Buzbee is trying to cause maximum chaos for Watson, in the hopes of getting him to settle the 22 cases for maximum value. That said, Watson should settle the cases, now. He needs to put this behind him. He needs to make sure the 22 plaintiffs have gotten some sense of justice.
If it were just one person, it would be different. With 22 plaintiffs, it’s hard to dismiss all of them as conspiratorial or delusional or lying or whatever. The critical mass lands somewhere between one and 22. At 22, the common defenses used to shrug at claims of sexual misconduct become much harder to digest.
The process continues. The Browns, smitten by Watson’s talent, are willing to assume whatever risks may be associated with the transaction. Whether it’s seeing the pending cases go sideways or having one or more others come forward, the full cost of the situation won’t be known, for a while. Whether the Browns are making a calculated risk or a reckless one, they’re still taking a very real chance that this one won’t blow up in their faces.