Browns QB Deshaun Watson now faces 23rd lawsuit for alleged sexual assault and harassment

A new lawsuit alleging sexual assault and harassment during massage sessions was filed Tuesday against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who now faces 23 civil cases.

It is the first new lawsuit filed against Watson since April 2021. It is the second time the total number of lawsuits has reached 23, as a previous plaintiff dropped her suit.

Tuesday’s suit alleges Nia Smith, who is identified by name and worked for A New U Salon Spa in Houston, had three meetings with Watson from June 2020 through Sept. 2020

In the first session, Smith states “things became progressively weird” and Watson wanted her to focus on his buttocks. A second session alleges Watson attempted to grab the plaintiff’s buttocks and brushed up against her rear, and also asked the plaintiff if she wanted to perform a sexual act. In the third and final session, Smith alleges Watson got naked in front of her, refused to cover himself and repeatedly requested she have sex with him.

The NFL declined comment on Tuesday’s lawsuit filing.

Watson, 26, denied the allegations through a statement by his attorney, Rusty Hardin.

“Deshaun Watson vehemently denies the allegations, just as he has since she first discussed them with members of our firm in March of last year,” the statement read, in part. “She repeated the allegations on social media in August and he denied them then. The only thing new about her contentions is the embellishment making them more extreme than prior versions. Deshaun’s denial remains the same.”

Watson has previously denied any wrongdoing regarding the lawsuits filed prior to Tuesday’s and has maintained any sex with the women was consensual. Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints filed by 10 women.

The suit comes after the plaintiff said she watched a segment regarding Watson and his lawsuits on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which began airing on May 24. Initially, Smith did not file because “she was worried about backlash.” However, seeing the Real Sports segment changed her stance.

“In that piece, the plaintiff was struck by the courage of the victims willing to step forward and speak, and was extremely displeased by Watson and his legal team’s mistreatment and revictimization of the plaintiffs,” the new lawsuit states. “But it was Watson himself claiming that even now he has ‘no regrets’ and has done nothing wrong that solidified her resolve. She brings this case seeking minimum compensation, but to obtain a court finding that Watson’s conduct was wrong.”

Watson is also facing potential discipline from the NFL, which is independently investigating whether he violated the league’s personal-conduct policy.

League investigators interviewed Watson in Houston previously. At the Spring League Meeting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was “nearing the end of the investigation” into Watson, but Goodell did not provide a timeline for potential discipline.

Watson, who played with the Houston Texans from 2017-2020, was traded from Houston to Cleveland in March.

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