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Deshaun Watson during a game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 3 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson faces 16 lawsuits in Harris County, Texas, from women alleging sexual assault and harassment, after two new suits were filed on Tuesday, the NFL announced.

Why it matters: Watson has been called a "serial predator," per a lawsuit filed Monday night. Accusers have called his behavior "part of a disturbing pattern," CNN writes, though the QB has denied the accusations.

What they're saying: Watson's lawyer Rusty Hardin said he believes "any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false," in a Tuesday statement, per the NFL.

  • "I want to emphasize at the outset that we and Deshaun recognize that sexual assault and harassment are not only unlawful, but morally wrong," Hardin said.
  • "We do not take these allegations lightly. However, fairness to the accused is equally as important."

Context: The NFL said last week it is investigating earlier lawsuits from three massage therapists who worked with Watson and accused him of sexually assaulting them during sessions.

Watson stated in a tweet last week that he "never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect" and looks forward to clearing his name.

  • Hardin claimed that a lawsuit brought by one of the women was only filed after a failed attempt to blackmail his client for $30,000.

Of note: All 16 women filed separate suits, but each is represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who has said that the legal action isn't about money since the women are suing for the least amount that can be sought in Texas civil district court, according to AP.

What to watch: Buzbee said in an Instagram post last Saturday he planned to submit affidavits and evidence from some of the women to the Houston Police and the city's district attorney, ESPN writes.

  • He added he intends to request a grand jury to weigh the evidence and assess whether charges should be brought against Watson by the state of Texas.

Go deeper

Updated 39 mins ago - Axios Twin Cities

Police: Officer who shot Daunte Wright accidentally pulled gun instead of taser

The officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, outside Minneapolis Sunday appeared to have inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a taser, police said.

Driving the news: "This appears to me, from what I viewed in the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright," Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday.

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold strategic Iran talks on Tuesday

Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty

Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: The warning signs of a longer pandemic — CDC director: Answer to Michigan COVID-19 surge is "to close things down."
  2. Vaccines: Former FDA chief offers reality check on vaccine passports.
  3. Economy: Jobs growth could be curbed by demands for higher wages.
  4. World: Facebook to push notifications about vaccine eligibility to 20 countries outside of the U.S. — Brits flock to pubs for first time in months as U.K. lockdown eases.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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