Nike has suspended its endorsement agreement with Deshaun Watson, making it the first major sponsor to publicly distance itself from the Houston Texans quarterback following the sexual misconduct and assault allegations against him.
In a brief statement to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday, the company said it was “deeply concerned about the disturbing allegations” and had ended its relationship with Watson.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” said Nike.
CNBC first reported the news.
Hours later, the headphone company Beats by Dr. Dre announced their partnership with Watson, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have the authority to speak publicly on the matter.
Watson has been a partner with Beats since he was a draft pick in 2017.
Reliant, which also had a sponsorship deal with Watson, said Wednesday it had no plans to renew its partnership with the quarterback.
“Reliant is aware that civil suits and criminal investigations are pending against Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans quarterback,” the company said in a statement. “Our relationship with Watson as a brand ambassador should end before these allegations this spring, and there are no plans for future engagements or contracts with him. We take allegations of this nature very seriously. Regarding the legal process, we have no further comment this matter. “
Nike’s move comes less than 24 hours after two women publicly made their allegations against Watson.
Ashley Solis, the first of now 22 women to file lawsuits against him in Texas under the pseudonym “Jane Doe”, said at a press conference that she was initially afraid to associate her name with the allegations, but “Me don’t be afraid anymore. ” . “
“I am a survivor of assault and harassment,” said Solis of Attorney Tony Buzbee’s office in Houston. “Deshaun Watson is my attacker and my molester.”
Another lawyer at Buzbee’s law firm, Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, later read a letter from Lauren Baxley, a second victim who wanted to come out publicly. Solis and Baxley both identified as massage therapists.
Watson, 25, has largely denied the wrongdoing, and his legal team, led by Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, has repeatedly attempted to portray the allegations as money robbery. Hardin said in a statement Tuesday that Buzbee’s company “sought $ 100,000 in hush money” before filing Solis’ lawsuit last month.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.