Nike said Wednesday it has suspended its endorsement of NFL star Deshaun Watson. Apple’s Beats by Dre brand terminated its deal with Watson as well after the National Football League quarterback has been accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed by 22 women.
The first woman who accused Watson of sexual misconduct while receiving private massages spoke publicly on Tuesday. Ashley Solis said she suffers from “panic attacks, anxiety and depression” due to Watson’s alleged sexual assault in March 2020. She requested that Watson be held accountable for his alleged behavior.
Watson and lawyer Rusty Hardin have denied the allegations saying the claims result from a failed blackmail attempt. The National Football League quarterback has been accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed by 22 women, all represented by lawyer Tony Buzbee.
The Houston Police Department tweeted on Friday that it has opened a criminal investigation after a complaint was filed against Watson.
“The brands are in a difficult situation right now,” said Scott Rosner, academic director of the sports management program at Columbia University. “There clearly will be public pressure as there typically is in these types of cases to disassociate themselves formally from the athlete. And some are likely to do that. Others will make a statement expressing concern but reiterating their belief in the legal process.”
MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, the marketability of Deshaun Watson will take a hit, likely even if he’s totally exonerated. This also highlights the risk to brands of using celebrity endorsers.