Nike suspends endorsement of NFL star Deshaun Watson over sexual misconduct allegations

Nike has suspended its endorsement of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the corporate informed CNBC on Wednesday. Apple‘s Beats by Dre model additionally mentioned it has terminated its endorsement cope with Watson.

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike mentioned in a press release. A consultant for Beats didn’t present a press release.

The first girl who accused Watson of sexual misconduct whereas receiving non-public massages spoke publicly on Tuesday. Ashley Solis mentioned she suffers from “panic attacks, anxiety and depression” attributable to Watson’s alleged sexual assault in March 2020. She requested that Watson be held accountable for his alleged conduct.

Watson and lawyer Rusty Hardin have denied the allegations saying the claims end result from a failed blackmail try. The National Football League quarterback has been accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed by 22 girls, all represented by lawyer Tony Buzbee.

The Houston Police Department tweeted on Friday that it has opened a felony investigation after a grievance was filed towards Watson.

“The brands are in a difficult situation right now,” mentioned Scott Rosner, educational director of the sports activities administration 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.”

Will race play an element?

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers passes the ball within the first quarter of the sport towards the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field on December 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Joe Sargent | Getty Images

But manufacturers, together with Nike, remained with Roethlisberger regardless of the allegations. Roethlisberger was suspended 4 video games for violation of the NFL’s private conduct coverage, one thing Watson might additionally face even when he avoids felony costs.

“It’s an appropriate and fair question to ask,” Rosner mentioned of race enjoying a think about figuring out Watson’s state of affairs with manufacturers. Roethlisberger is white and Watson is Black. But Watson does face extra accusers than Roethlisberger which manufacturers might want to take into account, too. Roethlisberger confronted allegations from one girl whereas Watson is accused by 22, and people accusations come within the context of the #MeToo motion.

“It’s hard to know the impact of race in this particular instance or in Roethlisberger’s instance,” Rosner added. “But in general, I think we can say that race is typically a factor whether consciously or unconsciously considered. It’s an obvious difference between the two cases. We’ll see if it leads to different treatment.”

Marketability broken?

Watson, 25, is scheduled to make $10 million for the upcoming season. He signed a four-year extension value $156 million ($73 million assured), beginning in 2022, rising his wage to $35 million that season. He’s represented by company Athletes First.

But whether or not he’ll be in Houston is the query. Watson requested the be traded earlier than his authorized points began. Rosner mentioned manufacturers would additionally have to take this into consideration.

Like Roethlisberger, if Watson does overcome the dangerous publicity and he will get traded to a much bigger market membership with extra enchantment, manufacturers who stroll away might open up doorways for competitors.

“The difficulty with dropping – you score points immediately in the court of public opinion, but if the allegations are proven to be untrue, or if they are not substantiated, then it’s likely a competitor will swoop in and sign the athlete to a deal that you terminated. So there is some risk in that,” Rosner mentioned.

But Watson’s marketability has taken successful. And in a social media local weather, Rosner mentioned manufacturers trying to preserve endorsements with Watson must be involved shifting ahead.

“I would have, as a brand, some apprehension about continuing the relationship,” Rosner mentioned. “But at a minimum, you’re suspending any sort of relationship and coming out with a strongly worded commentary – at a bare minimum.”

Correction: This story has been up to date to mirror that Solis alleged Watson’s sexual assault occurred in March 2020.

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