Nike has suspended its endorsement arrangement with Deshaun Watson, becoming the first major sponsor to publicly distance itself from the Houston Texans quarterback in the wake of the sexual misconduct and assault allegations levied against him.
In a brief statement provided to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday, the company said it is “deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations” and has suspended its relationship with Watson.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said.
CNBC first reported the news.
Hours later, the headphones company Beats by Dr. Dre ended its partnership with Watson, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Watson had been a partner of Beats since he was a draft pick in 2017.
Reliant, which also had a sponsorship agreement with Watson, said Wednesday it did not plan to extend its partnership with the quarterback.
“Reliant is aware of pending civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation involving Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans quarterback,” the company said in a statement. “Our relationship with Watson as a brand ambassador was scheduled to end this spring prior to these allegations, and there are no plans for future engagements or contracts with him. We take accusations of this nature very seriously. With respect to the legal process, we do not have any further comment on this matter.”
Nike’s move comes less than 24 hours after two women came forward publicly with their allegations against Watson.
Ashley Solis, the first of now 22 women who have filed lawsuits against him in Texas under the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” said in a news conference that she was initially afraid to attach her name to the allegations but “I’m not afraid anymore.”
“I am a survivor of assault and harassment,” Solis said from attorney Tony Buzbee’s office in Houston. “Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser.”
Another lawyer at Buzbee’s firm, Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, later read a letter from a second victim who wished to come forward publicly, named Lauren Baxley. Solis and Baxley both identified themselves as massage therapists.
Watson, 25, has broadly denied wrongdoing and his legal team, led by Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, has repeatedly sought to portray the allegations as a money grab. Hardin said in a statement Tuesday that Buzbee’s firm had “sought $100,000 in hush money” prior to filing Solis’ lawsuit last month.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.