The Houston Texans have benched quarterback Deshaun Watson for the first game of the season.
Head coach David Culley announced Monday that veteran Tyrod Taylor will be the team’s starting quarterback when the 2021 season begins at NRG Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 12.
Watson will not play in the game, but he is on the team’s roster, ESPN’s SportsCenter said in a Twitter post.
Watson, 25, signed a four-year extension with the Texans last year. Watson’s contract has the second-highest guaranteed salary and total value at $111 million in National Football League (NFL) history.
He’s now facing 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct. The lawsuits were filed earlier this year in Harris County, Texas.
The suits allege that Watson acted inappropriately with women hired to provide personal services, such as allegedly exposing himself to masseuses. The incidents occurred between March 2020 and March 2021, according to court documents.
Ashley Solis was one of the first women to file suit. Solis, a massage therapist, read a statement at a news conference in April asserting Watson sexually assaulted and harassed her in her home after contacting her through Instagram.
“It has taken me a long time to get to this point to come out publicly and speak my truth. I was afraid. I’m not afraid anymore,” she said. “I am here to take back the power and take back control.”
Two of the 22 women have accused Watson of sexual assault, stating the NFL star pressured them into performing oral sex during massages. In one of the cases, he’s also accused of touching a woman’s vagina and buttocks.
Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, acknowledged that Watson took part in sexual acts with some women but that they were all consensual. In a legal filing, Hardin denied all allegations and attacked the credibility of several plaintiffs, stating some women lied to get money or bragged about their encounters with the quarterback to friends.
Watson has only addressed the allegations once, posting a statement to Twitter on March 16. Watson said he hadn’t seen the complaint at that time but denied ever treating a woman with “anything other than the utmost respect.”
The NFL and the Houston Police Department have opened their own investigations into the matter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also looking into the matter as well as allegations of extortion.
The Texans said in a March 18 statement that they would “continue to take this and all matters involving anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously” but they wouldn’t comment further until the NFL’s investigation was complete.
Newsweek has reached out to Watson’s attorney for additional comment but didn’t receive a response before publication.