CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ashley Solis, the first of 25 massage therapists to sue Deshaun Watson for sexual misconduct, called the NFL Thursday for not caring about the accused.
After a 15-month investigation into Watson’s behavior, the NFL fought hard for an indefinite suspension for at least a year. But NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, appointed jointly by the NFL Players Association and the NFL, gave him six games, and the NFL appealed. The league is again seeking a minimum one-year ban, but also a fine and appropriate treatment.
“The past two and a half years have been a very difficult time for me,” Solis said at a joint news conference with attorney Tony Busby, who represents all 30 defendants. The whole situation was emotionally and mentally exhausting. I’ve had several death threats, angry people have been approaching me in public and I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of people saying horrible and despicable things about me on the internet.
She said the behavior initially injured her, but then she became numb. In the end, I fell into a deep depression.
“After that, every time I started getting letters in the mail and emails from random people from all over the country about how they supported me, believed me and inspired me,” she said. “If you are any of those people, and if you are watching now, I am very grateful to you. These statements of support helped me remember who I am, who I am and why I decided to put myself in the public eye and make myself as vulnerable as I have felt in my entire life.”
She noted, “I’m here today and I’ve been here for all the girls, women and human beings in general who have ever felt like they didn’t have the strength to speak.”
One of the 23 plaintiffs in a settlement with Watson, Solis expressed his displeasure with the NFL’s disciplinary process, which led to the initial six-game suspension. On Thursday, Roger Goodell appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.
“What do the actions of the NFL do to young girls who have suffered at the hands of someone believed to be in power,” Solis said. ‘This isn’t a big deal? They don’t care? Tough sh—? That’s what I took from their actions.’
In an interview with Soledad O’Brien also on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble, Solis offered a different message to the same young girls.
“No matter how terrifying or powerful someone is,” she said, “they’re just human.” “And like all human beings, we all have the right to have our voices heard. … I realize that the people I have decided to speak against are mere mortals and I am no longer afraid of them. I am no longer afraid of that power.”
“Because I understand and realize that I have more power. I am supported by my community, my family, and my grandparents. … If anyone ever tries to abuse their status and get over you, remind them that they chose the wrong person to try.”
She said that’s exactly what it is – wrong.
“I will continue to show my face and will continue to speak for as long as possible,” she said. “You must also be wrong and speak up.”
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