Lawyer Tony Buzbee has publicly chided the Browns for not speaking to him or his 22 clients regarding the civil lawsuits pending against quarterback Deshaun Watson. During the press conference that officially introduced Watson on Friday, G.M. Andrew Berry explained the decision not to speak to the women directly.
Berry said that the Browns were “advised against reaching out to the 22 women out of concern it would be considered interfering with a criminal investigation.” Berry also said that independent investigative resources were utilized to explore the cases. He declined to address any of the specifics regarding the work done by the investigators.
Throughout the press conference, Berry addressed the basic reality that the Browns wouldn’t have made this move if they weren’t comfortable with Watson. The final question consisted of a relative softball for Berry.
“Do you and does this organization believe there was no wrongdoing?” Berry was asked.
“We feel very confident in Deshaun the person,” Berry said. “We have a lot of faith in him. And we believe that as he gets into the community and our organization, he’s going to make a positive impact.”
It was a yes or no question. Do you believe there was no wrongdoing? Anything other than yes is a fancy, evasive way of saying no.
This suggests a fundamental truth. The Browns don’t know whether there was wrongdoing. They’re taking a calculated risk that wrongdoing won’t be proven and that, if it is, there won’t be future wrongdoing. That Watson has learned his lessons and changed his ways.
Everything the Browns are dealing with now from a P.R. standpoint is part of the price to be paid for having a long-term franchise quarterback. Draft picks, millions in guaranteed money, complaints from fans, tough questions at a press conference. It’s all temporary, if Watson performs the way they think he will.
And the bar is low. Watson on multiple occasions mentioned the goal of winning “Super Bowls” in Cleveland. If he wins only one, any and all initial discomfort associated with his arrival will be forgotten.