“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 accused of sexual assault or harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women.
Nike would be using the morals clause in their contract with Watson to suspend its validity, according to Sports lawyer Darren Heitner. Nike has used this clause in the past like with former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who physically assaulted a woman in 2014.
The financial terms of Watson’s deal with Nike haven’t been made public.
The first woman to accuse Watson of sexual assault and harassment in a lawsuit spoke publicly on Tuesday, alleging she was terrorized by her encounter with the NFL player and that he needs to be held accountable for his actions.
During a news conference, Ashley Solis said she was assaulted and traumatized when she tried to give Watson a massage in March 2020.
“I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman… I am seeking justice not just on behalf of myself but for all survivors… This is about having my voice heard,” a tearful Solis said as she read a statement, adding she was no longer afraid to speak out.
Solis’s description of her encounter with Watson, in which he allegedly touched her with his penis during the massage session, mirrors the accusations 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 got a massage. At least one woman has alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex during a massage in December. All of the women who have sued Watson are either licensed massage therapists or worked in a spa or similar business. The first lawsuit was filed on March 16 and the most recent one was filed Monday.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has called the allegations “meritless” and questioned the claims against Watson, alleging they were made following a failed attempt to blackmail his client for $30,000.
Solis said in her statement that since the alleged assault, she suffers from panic attacks, anxiety, depression and is no longer comfortable working as a massage therapist.
Both the Houston Police Department and the NFL are conducting their own investigations into the allegations.
Watson is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason. Watson recently requested to be traded from the team, prior to the release of the sexual misconduct allegations.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.