Nike, Suspends Endorsement of Texans QB Deshaun Watson Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

FILE PHOTO: Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Nike has suspended its endorsement of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the company told CNBC on Wednesday.

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement

The first woman who accused Watson of sexual misconduct while receiving private massages spoke publicly on Tuesday. Ashley Solis said she suffers from “panic attacks, anxiety and depression” due to Watson’s alleged sexual assault in March 2020. She requested that Watson be held accountable for his alleged behavior.

Watson and lawyer Rusty Hardin have denied the allegations saying the claims result from a failed blackmail attempt. The National Football League quarterback has been accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed by 22 women, all represented by lawyer Tony Buzbee.

And on April 2, the Houston Police Department tweeted it has opened a criminal investigation after a complaint was filed against Watson. With his off-the-field troubles, Watson’s other backers like Apple’s Beats by Dre brand could soon need to respond. A representative for Beats by Dre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With Nike responding, other brands may soon need to react, even partially, as allegations against the football star intensify.

“The brands are in a difficult situation right now,” said Scott Rosner, the academic director of the sports management program at Columbia University. “There clearly will be public pressure as there typically is in these types of cases to disassociate themselves formally from the athlete. And some are likely to do that. Others will make a statement expressing concern but reiterating their belief in the legal process.”

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SOURCE: CNBC, Jabari Young