Deshaun Watson‘s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, doesn’t have high hopes for Tuesday night’s treatment of Watson’s case by HBO’s Real Sport with Bryant Gumbel. The lawyer representing the 22 women who has sued Watson seems to be slightly more optimistic.
Tony Buzbee’s law firm has issued the following statement in advance of Tuesday night’s episode.
“HBO approached us and asked us if our clients would be willing to speak on the record for the Real Sports program,” the statement reads. “As was the case with speaking with law enforcement and the NFL, we left the decision whether to speak publicly up to the clients themselves. Two chose to do so. These women are the most brave and courageous I’ve ever met. This firm is extremely proud to represent them. During the filming process I was impressed with HBO’s diligence and insistence on fairness. Despite our requests, HBO refused to provide us before-hand the questions they intended to ask. And, I can tell you, hard questions were in fact asked — not only to our clients but to me as well. This firm has been trying and winning civil cases for twenty-five years; we are extremely confident in these cases. As each witness testifies in the pre-trial discovery process, the evidence against Deshaun Watson continues to mount. The walls, as they say, are closing in. We look forward to trying these cases in court as soon as practicable. We are very confident that, in the end, justice will be done.”
The statement says that two of the alleged victims chose to speak. However, the statement issued by HBO on Friday said this: “Several women who have accused Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct sit down for their first ever national TV interview.”
Is two “several”? Sorry, HBO, but “several” implies more than two. While hardly a smoking gun, it’s unfortunate because it creates, in subtle but real fashion, a false impression as to the number of women who actually sat down with HBO.
Also, the notion that HBO refused to provide Buzbee with its questions in advance isn’t admirable. It’s expected. No credible journalist provides the questions in advance. The fact that Buzbee wanted the questions in advance is unusual. The fact that HBO declined is not.
It’s also unclear whether HBO offered Watson a chance to be interviewed. We assume HBO did, but HBO has not yet responded to two separate emails raising this question.
The new episode of Real Sports debuts on Tuesday night. We’ll be watching it. We’ll be digesting it. We’ll provide a fair and balanced analysis of it.
Regardless of what is or isn’t said and who does or doesn’t say it, this is the latest skirmish in the court of public opinion. Although Hardin recently tried to suggest that this aspect of the fight doesn’t matter, it does. When it comes to the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, P.R. means plenty. It means everything. The policy is a tool for managing P.R.
And, as mentioned over the weekend, the fact that the Commissioner nearly lost his job for being too lenient in the punishment of Ray Rice suggests that the Commissioner won’t make that mistake again.