CLEVELAND — It's clear to everyone by now that the Deshaun Watson story is about more than just football.
On Friday, the Houston Texans shipped Watson to Cleveland in exchange for multiple high-end draft picks, and the Browns have reportedly agreed to give the quarterback $230 million in guaranteed money over five years (an NFL record). From a purely on-field standpoint, Watson is viewed as one of the most talented QBs in the game, and could instantly put the Browns right back where they thought they would be in 2021: Super Bowl contention.
But the move has also been met with controversy and outrage, as Watson is currently facing accusations of sexual assault, misconduct, and harassment from 22 different women. While a grand jury in Texas recently declined to indict Watson on criminal charges and he has denied the allegations against him, civil litigation remains active, and a lack of a formal indictment or conviction in and of itself is far from exoneration in cases of this nature.
The Browns have yet to issue any statement on the trade, even though the Texans have confirmed the deal and their general manager Nick Caserio spoke with the media on Saturday. However, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has publicly spoken about the matter, acknowledging the complex nature of the situation as well as the impact it can have on survivors of sexual assault.
"We understand the story surrounding [Deshaun] Watson joining the Cleveland Browns team is triggering for far too many of our friends and neighbors," CRCC wrote. "For those who need additional support, please know Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available to you 24/7/365."
In the 24 hours since the trade went down, opinion amongst Browns fans has been decidedly split, with some thrilled at the prospect of getting a top-flight quarterback and others feeling like the club sacrificed its principles for the sake of winning. Many expressed their disgust by urging people to donate their money to the Rape Crisis Center, instead of spending it at FirstEnergy Stadium this fall.
"To the community we say, we see you," CRCC said. "We hear your outrage. We feel it too. Every click. Every post and every tweet. Every donation sends a clear message."
For those wishing to do more to combat sexual violence, the center is suggesting participation in its upcoming ambassador training, inviting its prevention program to schools, or donating money to the cause.
"Together, we can create a community that is healthy, safe and strong."