One of the most telling moments in the awkward, confusing and BS-riddled press conference with the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson actually came at the end, when Andrew Berry, the team’s general manager and executive vice president of football operations, was asked point blank if he believed that Watson was innocent. His answer said so much by saying so little.
“We believe in Deshaun the person,” Berry said.
He wouldn’t directly answer the question. What happened between Watson and those 22 women? We don’t know. What we do know is that it’s 22 women. That is, well, an extraordinary number. You’re either a dope, lackey or Donald Trump not to believe that, at minimum, a significant number of those women are telling the truth when they accuse Watson of sexual misconduct during massages.
The Browns likely feel the same way. Trust me on this. They are disgraceful for signing Watson, but they’re not total morons. They see what you and I do. They are simply deciding to overlook the inconvenience that their franchise $230 million centerpiece might be a serial sexual predator. Tomato, tamahto.
Berry is willing to stake a portion of his now torched reputation, but his answer showed he’s not willing to stake all of it on Watson. I’ve seen it before in the NFL when a player is accused of a serious crime, and the team, including players, will say publicly or privately they think the player is innocent.
But you simply cannot do that with 22 woman filing lawsuits. You just can’t.
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Instead of obfuscations and excuses, I’d have more respect for the team if it said: He’s the best chance this sad organization has to win a Super Bowl. It’s a marriage of convenience. We’re not sure what happened between him and those women but we’re rolling the dice and yeah, we’re selling a piece of our soul on the cheap. We all do it.
The press conference was a diabolical farce. The Browns wanted it to have an air of respectability, reassuring over and over, they did a thorough job of looking into the case.
But they didn’t and it’s clear they didn’t. We know this because they didn’t speak to any of the victims.
The Browns said they were advised by counsel they couldn’t. That’s fine. But then don’t say you did a thorough investigation.
And certainly don’t do what Berry did, which is try to be slick.
There was another telling moment. Jake Trotter, from ESPN, asked Berry: “Andrew, just to be clear, nobody from the Browns or representing the Browns spoke to any of the 22 women who have made allegations, correct?”
“Like I mentioned earlier in my opening statement, Jake, our attorneys advised us that reaching out directly could be considered interfering with a criminal investigation,” Berry said. “But that’s the reason we did hire independent investigators to make sure that we could get that comprehensive and holistic perspective.”
“So you’re saying the investigators you hired did speak to the women?” Trotter asked.
“I’ll say the investigators that we hired were able to get a full perspective of all the cases,” Berry said.
It went like this for another minute or so with Berry falling back on “investigators” and “comprehensive.”
Do you see what Berry did there? He won’t say they did speak to Watson’s alleged victims, but he won’t directly say they didn’t. Owner Jimmy Haslam said during his separate press conference that investigators they hired read depositions of some of the accusers. He wasn’t more specific than that.
If that’s all they did, then that’s far from comprehensive.
It’s about as comprehensive as when the team signed running back Kareem Hunt after he was caught on video assaulting a woman. Except then they called it “extreme due diligence.”
There’s also a huge problem with the Browns saying that attempting to contact the women could constitute interference into a criminal investigation since many of the women didn’t file criminal charges.
Also, we know the NFL has interviewed several of the women. Why couldn’t the Browns?
The Browns likely workshopped for days how to explain pursuing Watson, and subsequently signing him, without having spoken to any of the women. So they came up with…that. Whatever was.
Haslam and co-owner Dee Haslam ended their press conference saying they asked their daughters about signing Watson. It was yet another sordid moment. They were trying to use their daughters as props in order to justify their terrible decision.
What happened with Cleveland signing Watson is simple.
They think Watson can help them win games.
They don’t care about women.
That’s it. That’s all.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson’s press conference shows Browns don’t care about women