CLEVELAND (WJW) — Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam spoke to the public on Friday afternoon shortly after Deshaun Watson made his first statements as the team’s new quarterback.

Watson is still facing 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. The allegations first surfaced in March 2021. Watson didn’t play last season for the Houston Texans as the cases mounted.

Two grand juries declined to criminally charge Watson in the case.

Dee Haslam said the decision to add Watson to the Browns roster was a “really hard and difficult journey” for the Haslams, but they are comfortable with their choice.

“We spent a ton of time learning about Deshaun as a person,” said Dee Haslam. “That really helped us get more comfortable with it. And talking to a tremendous amount of people who know him.”

Jimmy Haslam emphasized that two different grand juries chose not to charge Watson.

“We trust the legal process, and I think due process does exist in our country and the exhaustive amount of time we spent researching him led us to make the decision we made,” said Jimmy Haslam.

Dee Haslam acknowledged many fans, especially fans and victims of sexual assault, are angry at or do not support their decision.

We respect our fans and their feelings, this is a really tough subject, and there are a lot of people who experience a lot of pain through sexual abuse…so we absolutely respect that,” she said. “So I think our goal all along is to build an organization that Cleveland will be proud of and we will continue to do that.

**See the archived blog at the bottom of this page**

General manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke alongside Watson earlier on Friday as the team officially introduced him and answered media’s questions.

During the press conference, Watson repeatedly said he did not assault any women.

“All I can say is I never assaulted, I never disrespected, I never harassed any woman in my life. I wasn’t raised that way. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way over the course of my life. That’s not in my DNA,” he said. “As far as the details, the things they are alleging, I can’t speak on that because there is an ongoing investigation. But in the future, once everything is resolved, I’d love to sit down and talk about it.”

The Browns announced they were acquiring Watson last week from Houston after Deshaun initially said he would not be joining the team.

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  • Dee: This has been a really hard and difficult journey for us and our family.
  • Dee: Spent a ton of time learning about Deshaun as a person. “That really helped us get more comfortable with it. And talking to a tremendous amount of people who know him.”
  • Jimmy: We got strong recommendation from legal council not to reach out to the 22 women
  • Jimmy: Third parties did research the situation
  • Dee: He is a community guy. He wants to be involved in communiy, and I think he will work really hard to gain trust in the community and within the organization.
  • Jimmy: We understand it will take time. We know some people may not get over it.
  • Dee: We do respect individuals who have strong feelings.
  • Jimmy: Says they expect “very high performance levels” on and off the field from their players and that Watson knows and understands that.
  • Dee: “This was a journey I had to get comfortable with, and I got more comfortable the more people we talked to about who Deshaun is as a person. It definitely took some time and was defintely a process, not just on behalf of myself but on behalf of my family and our daughters for sure.”
  • Dee: Says they got comfortable with and trusted the legal process.
  • Jimmy: Empahasized two different grand juries decided not to move forward. “We have to trust that process.”
  • Jimmy: Says he knows Deshaun learned from the process.
  • Jimmy: Says they think highly of Baker and did “not get down on him.” Says Baker “gave it everything he had” while he was in Cleveland.
  • Jimmy: “I think we would just say what we said earlier. That is that we trust the legal process, and I think due process does exist in our country and the exhaustive amount of time we spent researching him led us to make the decision we made.”
  • Dee: We respect our fans and their feelings, this is a really tough subject, and there are a lot of people who experience a lot of pain through sexual abuse…so we absolutely respect that. So I think our goal all along is to build an organization that Cleveland will be pround of and we will continue to do that.
  • Jimmy: Said the couple spent several Sundays with their daughters regarding the decision and situation.
  • Jimmy: Said regarding massages in Cleveland for Watson, any “guidance and advice medical staff/trainers will give to Deshaun.”