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.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson faces sexual misconduct allegations from 22 women. (Photo: Shanna Lockwood, USA TODAY Sports)
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 [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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