Deshaun Watson accusers attending Browns-Texans would be strong lesson in power dynamics

Power comes in many forms.

Some power can be bought by those with the right connections and enough money. That power usually corrupts.

Some power can be earned. That power can contaminate.

We all, at minimum, have the right to power over ourselves and our bodies, our physical, mental and emotional well-being. For some of us, we don't realize how much power we have until it has been stolen, whether we realize it's being taken bit by bit over the course of months or years, or seized in a moment.

A moment like, theoretically speaking, being in a massage treatment room believing you're there to provide professional care to a client, only to realize that client has no interest in therapy and is trying to exert power over you. To strip you of your agency, intimidate you with his money and status, and lie about wanting to support a Black-owned business, as if entrepreneurship necessitates a side of sexual assault for success.

And in those moments, you feel powerless.

History has shown that women — especially Black women and other women of color — who speak up routinely become targets in cases like this. Called "gold diggers" or scorned prospective lovers. Get accused of asking for it. Get told they're looking for acclaim, as if there is a long line of women who went on to fame and fortune after raising their hand and saying "this awful thing happened to me."

Over two dozen women alleged Deshaun Watson stole their power and agency, via sexual assaults and misconduct during what were supposed to be massage appointments. All but one of those civil lawsuits have been settled, though the legal system can present its own complications as a venue to reclaim power.

Some of Deshaun Watson's accusers may reportedly attend Sunday's Browns-Texans game in Houston. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Some of Deshaun Watson's accusers may reportedly attend Sunday's Browns-Texans game in Houston. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Watson will be in uniform with the Cleveland Browns, having served an 11-game suspension and playing his first regular-season game in nearly two full years. Because the NFL's attitude toward women is horrifyingly consistent, that game will be in Houston, where the bulk of those women were living and working when contacted by Watson, when he was a member of the Texans.

On Tuesday, The Athletic's Kalyn Kahler reported that attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented most of Watson's accusers, will be at NRG Stadium for the game. And 10 of those women will be there with Buzbee.

It is a way for them to reclaim their power, and to remind Watson that while the court cases have been settled, and while he seems to have long since disregarded them, they will not be forgotten or overlooked by a league and sympathetic media partners who value Watson's potential over the harm he was alleged to have done.

As Buzbee told Kahler, they want to send a message to Watson and the Browns: "You think you put us behind you, but we are still here."

Not everyone will understand the decision, but not everyone understands the dynamics at play. A depressingly not-small number of people have dismissed these women entirely, just as Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have appeared to at every turn, to say nothing of the disturbing questions the Browns' all-out pursuit of their new quarterback has raised.

It's not for you or them to understand.

Those who attend Sunday are choosing to do so for themselves, to stand tall and reclaim some of their power. Through the attempts to smear and discredit them, they stood strong. They will not be erased.

For those who are opting not to attend, that's understandable too. Some of the women who have talked publicly have spoken of the deep scars their alleged interactions with Watson left, and their desire not to re-open those scars is valid.

Every person who has dealt with unwelcome contact, whether physical or emotional or both, is left to process it. Very few get true justice via the legal system. Many struggle in the aftermath, wondering what they did wrong or question themselves because, for women in particular, the pernicious idea that their clothing, body shape or even a smile means they basically brought an attack on themselves, as if the aggressor is blameless.

They believe they had some of their power stolen from them. On Sunday, they will take it back.

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