BEREA, Ohio — On Thursday, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and the NFLPA reached a settlement with the NFL on an 11-game suspension with a $5 million fine for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
Yet despite issuing multiple apologies to the women who he has affected during the past week, Watson reiterated on Thursday that he maintains his innocence after being accused by several women of sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault.
“I’ve always been able to stand on my innocence and always said I never assaulted or disrespected anyone and I've always been able to stand on that," Watson said. "But at the same point I have to continue to push forward with my life and career."
Asked why he is apologizing if he maintains his innocence, the 26-year-old said: "For everyone that was affected by this situation. There were a lot of people that were triggered."
Over the course of the past two months, Watson has reached settlements with 23 accusers who accused him of sexual misconduct during his time with the Houston Texans. One civil lawsuit against Watson currently remains. While two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson found that the Clemson product violated the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy on the following three counts:
- Conduct that Qualifies as a Sexual Assault
- Conduct that Poses a Genuine Danger to the Safety and Well-Being of Another Person
- Conduct that Undermines, or Puts at Risk, the Integrity of the NFL
Asked about the reaction to his comments that he was maintaining his innocence, Watson replied: "I have to do what's best for Deshaun Watson at the end of the day. I know what happened. I was in those situations. But I have to continue to push forward and keep moving forward."
Watson also stressed that his decision to settle 23 of the civil lawsuits against him doesn't mean that he is guilty.
"Just because settlements and things like that happen doesn't mean that a person is guilty," Watson said. "I feel like a person has an opportunity to stand on his innocence. We've proved that and we've proved that on the legal side and we've just got to continue to push forward as an individual and a person."