National sex assault advocacy group slams Deshaun Watson’s trade with Browns, Haslams response

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A national organization that advocates for victims of sexual assault on Tuesday criticized the Cleveland Browns’ trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson and the statement released Sunday by team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.

The Washington DC-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation has released an open letter to the Haslams regarding the decision to trade for Watson, who faces 22 lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct, and signs him for a record $230 million in guaranteed cash over five years. years. A Texas grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges after Houston police investigated the charges.

“Right now, it’s hard to believe that the Cleveland Browns and the NFL as a whole are concerned about issues of sexual abuse and exploitation in any way when we see your franchise choosing to promote and elevate an alleged serial sex exploiter,” the letter, signed by the organization’s president Patrick Trueman and CEO Dawn Hawkins, said.

Watson’s trade has also drawn criticism from local organizations, including the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, which said Tuesday that more than 1,700 people had donated to the nonprofit after the trade was announced on Friday. of Watson. Spokeswoman Donisha Greene said in an email that calls to the crisis hotline had increased by more than 130% and that hundreds of sexual assault survivors had contacted the center for help because Trade.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation said in the letter that it was “alarmed” by the Browns’ decision to make Watson one of the most high-profile members of the team, in addition to awarding him a record-breaking contract.

“We regret that never in history has such a contract been awarded to someone with such a questionable history of sexual misconduct,” the letter reads.

The letter also took aim at the Haslams’ statement, which called the 22 lawsuits ‘legal proceedings’, and the fact that the women’s attorney said the Browns had never contacted any of the women during their vetting process before. the exchange.

“The 22 civil lawsuits and count are not simply ‘legal proceedings’ or ‘complex factors,’ but rather represent survivors who accused Mr. Watson of sexual abuse and exploitation,” the letter said. “…By choosing to ignore their accusations, you are sending a clear message that the Cleveland Browns do not take sexual assault and abuse seriously.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation also posed a series of questions to the Browns, including whether the Browns had a system or policy to protect women from sexual abuse, whether they made it a condition of Watson’s employment to refrain from visiting massage parlors or hiring massage therapists. therapists, whether the Browns allow him to have one-on-one interactions with female employees and whether they suspend him if judgments are rendered against him in civil cases.

“It is simply unacceptable that leading players like Mr. Watson are not held to a clear, rigorous and consistently applied standard that puts the rights and well-being of those who are abused first. and sexual exploitation,” the letter reads. “The issues of sexual abuse and exploitation are not mere inconveniences for a highly visible and supposedly respectable organization to be swept away with sterilized press releases. These are serious issues of truth and justice for anything that impacts real human beings and the well-being of our culture.

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