Nike NKE, + 0.11% suspended its endorsement deal with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson amid allegations of sexual misconduct, the company told CNBC. “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, ”the company said.
Watson has been charged with assault or sexual harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women. The first woman to accuse Watson of assault and sexual harassment in a lawsuit spoke publicly on Tuesday, claiming she was terrified by her encounter with the NFL player and that he must be held accountable for his actions. During a press conference, Ashley Solís said that she was assaulted and traumatized when she tried to give Watson a massage in March 2020. “I present myself now so that Deshaun Watson does not attack another woman … I am seeking justice not only in myself name but for all survivors … It‘s about my voice being heard, ”Solís said through tears as she read a statement, adding that she was no longer afraid to speak. Solis’s description of her encounter with Watson, in which he allegedly touched her with his penis during the massage session, reflects the allegations made by the other women in their lawsuits. They accuse Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis, or kissing them against their will while he receives a massage. At least one woman has alleged that Watson forced her to perform oral sex during a massage in December. All of the women who have sued Watson are licensed masseurs or worked in a spa or similar business. The first lawsuit was filed on March 16 and the most recent was filed on Monday. Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, called the allegations “unsubstantiated” and questioned the allegations against Watson, claiming they were made after a failed attempt to blackmail his client for $ 30,000. Solís said in her statement that since the alleged assault she has suffered panic attacks, anxiety, depression and no longer feels comfortable working as a masseur. Both the Houston Police Department and the NFL are conducting their own investigations into the allegations. Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and signed a four-year, $ 156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason. Watson recently applied to be traded for the team, prior to the publication of the sexual misconduct allegations. Associated Press contributed to this article.