Hours before kickoff of his first preseason game with the Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson issued his first apology to the women he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted while playing for the Houston Texans.
Watson's apology came nine days after the NFL announced it was appealing his six-game suspension for sexual misconduct issued by former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, with the league seeking either a season-long suspension or a shorter suspension with a significant fine.
The appeal is now in the hands of former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, who was named arbitrator for the case by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. With that decision looming, the Browns still opted to have Watson start their preseason game against Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.
During the Browns' pregame show, Watson was interviewed by reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala and addressed Robinson's assertion he had not expressed remorse during the process:
Deshaun spoke with Aditi Kinkhabwala ahead of starting tonight's game in Jacksonville. pic.twitter.com/9kuHxI9ULh
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 12, 2022
Watson's question and answer:
Kinkhabwala: "As you say that, your eligibility is still in question, and although this appeal is ongoing, I have to ask you, the initial ruling from Judge Sue Robinson made a very specific point of saying that your lack of remorse played into her decision making. It's been a part of the narrative surrounding you. What is your response to that?"
Watson: "Look, I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation. The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position, I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I'm going to keep pushing forward."
Watson added that he plans to spend his time away from the game continuing his counseling and "growing as a person, as an individual for my decision-making on and off the field." He also said was "not sure when the next time I'll be able to get out there" will be.
Expressing any contrition is new for Watson and his camp, who have long insisted that his encounters with dozens of massage therapists were consensual. Even at his introductory Browns new conference, he declined to issue any sort of apology as the team circled its wagons around him.