CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ashley Solis, the first of 25 massage therapists to sue Deshaun Watson for sexual misconduct, called out the NFL Thursday for not caring about the accusers.
After a 15-month investigation into Watson’s behavior, the NFL fought hard for an indefinite suspension of at least a year. But NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, gave him six games, and the NFL has appealed. The league is once again seeking the minimum year-long ban, but also an appropriate fine and treatment.
“These past two and a half years for me have been a very trying time,’’ Solis said in a joint press conference with attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all of the 30 accusers. “The whole situation has been emotionally and mentally taxing. I’ve received multiple death threats, had angry people approach me in public and I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of people say terrible and vile things about me on the internet.’’
She said the conduct hurt her at first, but then she became numb to it. Ultimately, she spiraled into a deep depression.
“Then one at a time, I started receiving letters in the mail and emails from random people all over the country about how they supported me, they believed me and had been inspired by me,’’ she said. “If you are any of these people, and if you’re watching now, I’m so grateful for you. These statements of support helped me remember who I am, who I was, and why I decided to put myself in the public eye and make myself as vulnerable as I’ve ever felt in my entire life.’’
She noted that “I’m here today and have been here for all of the girls, women and humans in general who have ever felt that they didn’t have the power to speak up.’’
One of the 23 plaintiffs to settle with Watson, Solis expressed dismay over the NFL’s disciplinary process, which resulted in the initial six-game suspension. On Thursday, Roger Goodell appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.
“What do the actions of the NFL state to little girls who have suffered at the hands of someone perceived to have power,’’ Solis said. “That it’s not a big deal? That they don’t care? Tough sh—? That’s what I’ve taken from their actions.’’
Also interviewed by Soledad O’Brien on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Solis offered a different message to the same little girls.
“No matter how scary, big or powerful someone may seem, they’re just human,’’ she said. “And like all humans, we all have the right to have our voices heard. … I recognize that the people who I decided to speak out against are just human and I’m no longer scared of them. I no longer fear that power.
“Because I understand and I realize I have even more power. I’m backed by my community, my family and my ancestors. … If anyone has ever tried to abuse their status and overpower you, remind them that they picked the wrong one to try that with.’’
She said that’s exactly what she is — the wrong one.
“I’ll keep showing my face and keep speaking up for as long as I can,’’ she said. “You should be a wrong one too and speak up.’’
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