Nike, Beats by Dre alter endorsement deals

HOUSTON — Nike has suspended an endorsement deal with Deshaun Watson, while iconic headphones brand Beats by Dre has severed its business relationship with the Houston Texans quarterback on Wednesday, sources have confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

Nike released a statement that said the apparel giant was “deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations” and would “continue to closely monitor the situation.” Watson is currently the subject of 22 civil suits from women alleging sexual misconduct or sexual assault. A source said the suspension of Watson’s Nike deal is a pause and not yet a complete termination of the company’s relationship with the quarterback, but added that the future status of the partnership is no longer certain. A second source told Yahoo Sports that Apple’s Beats by Dre has terminated its relationship with Watson.

Reliant Energy also announced it won’t extend its deal with Watson to be a “brand ambassador.” The company said Wednesday that its contract with the Houston QB was set to expire this spring. 

Nike and Beats both struck deals with Watson in 2017, signing him prior to that season’s NFL draft. His endorsement portfolio has also included Rolex and Snickers, along with Texas-based grocery store chain H-E-B. 

The move comes on the heels of a Tuesday media conference in which Houston attorney Tony Buzbee revealed the names of two of Watson’s 22 civil lawsuit accusers. One of the women, massage therapist Ashley Solis, made a tearful statement about her encounter with Watson, revealing herself as the Jane Doe behind the first suit filed against the Texans quarterback. Buzbee also revealed that Solis had given a statement to the Houston Police Department, which has said it has opened an investigation into a criminal complaint against Watson. Aside from the HPD and the 22 pending suits against the quarterback, the NFL is also conducting its own investigation into the mounting allegations of sexual assault that have been levied.

Beats by Dre has terminated its relationship with Deshaun Watson in light of 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and sexual assault, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports, while Nike has suspended its endorsement deal with the Texans quarterback. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Solis’ public statement on Tuesday — along with another statement read from a second accuser named Lauren Baxley — was a significant change to the tenor of the allegations against Watson. Not only did it add faces to cases that have been filed, it countered at least part of a criticism by Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin, who said the anonymity of the women in the civil suits has been unfair to the defense of the quarterback. Solis appeared to gear her statement directly at Hardin’s criticisms on Tuesday.

“My name is Ashley Solis. Remember that name,” Solis said. “I hope every woman or man out there who is a survivor hears my story. And I hope my story gives them courage to speak out. It has taken me a long time to get to this point — to come out publicly and speak my truth. I know a lot of you are probably wondering who I was or if I even existed. I was afraid. I am not afraid anymore and I do exist. I am here to take back the power and take back control. I am a survivor of assault and harassment. Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser.”

Solis’ statement drew a response from Hardin, who issued a statement and a batch of emails illustrating that Buzbee’s office had attempted to resolve the litigation with a $100,000 settlement demand prior to Solis filing her suit. In the emails, an attorney in Buzbee’s firm presents the settlement figure and a suggestion of mediation between the two sides — which is a common practice in settlement pursuits. Upon filing the first civil suit back in March (which we now know was for Solis), Buzbee said publicly that he had attempted to settle the dispute, but did not reveal the financial figure in play.

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