Content warning: This post contains depictions of alleged sexual misconduct.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is still being investigated by the NFL after being accused of sexual misconduct by 23 women. With that investigation ongoing, Watson's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, did a radio interview with Sports Radio 610 and explained why he believes Watson did not commit any crimes.
Hardin signed off during the interview by attempting to explain why a "happy ending" was not a crime. His explanation was baffling.
Deshaun Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin ended his interview with @SethCPayne & @SeanTPendergast this morning reminding the audience that "happy endings" to massages are not necessarily illegal. https://t.co/dkWBghW7Eg pic.twitter.com/V0nOq1PeAi
— SportsRadio 610 (@SportsRadio610) June 3, 2022
The term "happy ending" describes either oral sex or manual stimulation of the penis during or after a massage. Watson is accused of touching some of the massage therapists with his penis or exposing himself to them. Other women in the lawsuit have accused Watson of ejaculating on them or forcing them to put their mouths on his penis. One accuser said Watson deliberately moved his erect penis to the woman's hand. Watson reportedly told the woman to "just grab it" if his penis got in the way.
Hardin's argument — that a "happy ending" is not a crime unless extra money is paid for the service — does not apply here. The issue revolves around whether Watson forced these women into unwanted sexual encounters. If that happened, it could qualify as sexual misconduct or sexual assault.
Hardin attempted to clarify those comments Friday, saying he believed Watson engaged in consensual sexual activity with the massage therapists. Hardin added Watson "did not pay anyone for sex."
Hardin also said he was speaking hypothetically when he used the term "happy ending" and wasn't talking about Watson's case.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 3, 2022
In the statement, Hardin declared, "It's not OK to do anything that a woman does not agree to do."
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the women suing Watson, issued a statement condemning Hardin's interview.
Buzbee added: “If you’re in the massage industry, according to Rusty Hardin, that’s to be expected. And apparently that’s what his client expected. I promise you that’s not what any of these women expected.”
— John Barr ESPN (@JohnBarrESPN) June 3, 2022
Buzbee said Hardin "may have single-handedly lost his client’s case" with that comment.
Deshaun Watson traded to Browns despite allegations
Those civil suits did not prevent the Browns from acquiring Watson in March. The team promptly gave Watson $230 million, the most guaranteed money in NFL history. The Browns also structured Watson's contract so he wouldn't lose out on that much money if he got suspended in 2022. Two grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges in March. Watson was traded to the Browns after the first grand jury declined to indict him.
Watson will not face criminal charges, but he is still subject to punishment from the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in May that the league's investigation into Watson was nearly complete. Since then, a 23rd accuser filed a civil suit against Watson.
Watson reportedly offered $100,000 to each of the 22 initial accusers last spring in an attempt to settle each case.