18 massage therapists issue statements in support of Deshaun Watson

The beleaguered Houston Texans quarterback receives support from massage therapists who say they've worked with him before with no issues

In a new twist of the ongoing Deshaun Watson saga, his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, has now released – with their full names – a list of 18 massage therapists who say they had no issues whatsoever with the Houston Texans quarterback. In fact, across the board in their statements, the therapists, who worked with Watson in several different cities, describe him as unfailingly polite and completely professional.

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As reported by NBC Sports’ Profootballtalk, Watson, 25, has now had 21 civil lawsuits filed from masseuses he worked with alleging sexual assault and misconduct, and one woman, not part of the lawsuits, says his behavior when she was his massage therapist in Houston, was “inappropriate.”

None of the women filing lawsuits have been publicly identified nor have any criminal charges been filed. The burden of proof in civil cases, it should be noted, is less than in a criminal case. But the women, and their lawyer, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, say the lawsuits are not about money but about protecting women from sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in a professional setting.

However, Hardin says that he believes the lawsuits are motivated by money and has cited at least two instances of women who allegedly first approached Watson with financial demands.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

The masseuses who have now shared their experiences and names say that their interactions with Watson were much different than what has been alleged.

The 18 masseuses are Dr. Arielle Ball, Jas Brooks, Dany Craig, Sara Fetherolf, Kaleigh Galindo, LaWonda Howard, Nadiyah Luqman, Masako Jones, Norma Reyna, Myah Roberson, Kam Phommyuong, Nalisha Storm, Ashley Thomas, Ana Compean, Raechal Martin, Joanne Brito, Tina Nguyen, and Kya Hillman. You can read their accounts in full here.

Brooks says she’s provided masseuse services to Watson dozens of times since 2018 and says he’s never been inappropriate or unprofessional.

“I began providing massage therapy to Deshaun in 2018 and have massaged him at least 40 times since then. I worked with him once or twice a week during the season and as needed during the off-season,” she said in her affidavit. “Early on, he said he wanted me to focus on his hamstrings [he had a trainer that worked on his upper body] and just to work the lactic acid out of his legs. This included the groin, glutes and feet. He never asked me any questions and hardly ever spoke at all. In all that time, I never had a single uncomfortable or inappropriate experience with Deshaun.”

Another therapist, Martin, echoes several of the others in her experience. Several of the masseuses say that Watson was quiet, polite, listened to music, and was clear and specific about what areas of his body he wanted them to focus on before the session.

“I massaged Deshaun four times at his house and at the Houstonian [hotel]. When we first met, he asked if I was comfortable with glutes, lower legs, and groin and I said yes. As an athletic trainer, this was a normal request. Deshaun barely talked; he was super quiet and passive. He has been one of the easiest clients I have ever had. That’s what makes these accusations against him so infuriating. Any licensed therapist knows that you may graze the penis during the course of the massage and you are taught how to address it professionally. You are also taught that the therapist is in charge and to immediately speak up if something makes you uncomfortable.”

Watson has not spoken publicly, been photographed anywhere, or posted on his usually busy social media accounts since earlier in the month when he said that he’s only ever treated women with respect. Nor has his girlfriend, influencer Jilly Anais, except for a photo promoting Savage X Fenty and Ciroc companies for which she is a brand ambassador. Prior to the allegations, the couple frequently documented their high-powered lifestyle and exotic vacations on Instagram.

Watson hired high-powered Houston-based lawyer Hardin, who has successfully represented superstar athletes on a variety of legal issues including Adrian Peterson, Scottie Pippen, Roger Clemens, Warren Moon, Steve Francis, Michael Bennett, and even megachurch first lady Victoria Osteen, wife of Lakewood church founder Joel Osteen.

As for Watson’s football future, he was already in a dispute with the Texans with whom he signed a four-year $156M contract deal last September, then became disenchanted with the team’s management when he asked to have input on a head coach and GM hire.

When that didn’t happen, according to multiple reports, he asked to be traded and he and the team remained at an impasse until the allegations became public earlier this month.

Newly hired Texans GM, Nick Caserio, who had previously said the team was not interested in trading Watson told Sports Illustrated Wednesday, “I think we’ll take it one day at a time, and everything is pretty fluid here and we’ll adjust as we go. And ultimately, I think we’ll do what we feel is best for the Houston Texans organizationally.”

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
Rusty Hardin watches the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans warm up before a NFL game on November 30, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Buzbee once lost a bid to be mayor of Houston and reportedly is a neighbor of Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair’s in a wealthy Houston neighborhood. McNair’s mother owns the team. He now says that he won’t be bringing any allegations to the Houston police because, he says, Hardin’s son is a member of the police department.

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“I am not saying in any way that Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, Mr. Hardin, has a son who has a position that would compromise HPD and its investigation, ” Buzbee said on Instagram Tuesday. “I support his service, along with all Houston police officers — I think the rank and file know that. But, I am saying that me and my clients will go elsewhere to provide our evidence to investigative authorities. Stand by.”

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