Deshaun Watson hosted friends and Houston Texans teammates for the grand opening of his new cheesesteak franchise last week.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, running back Duke Johnson, defensive end Charles Omenihu and offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard, Roderick Johnson attended the event.
Now their wallets are a little lighter.
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop reported on Tuesday that the Texans fined Watson and his teammates for attending the party. One player was fined $5,000, according to the report. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that Watson was docked $7,500 as the host of the party.
Watson claimed to follow protocol despite photos
Watson held the event as a minority owner of the Lefty’s franchise in Houston. The event broke NFL and basic pandemic safety protocols on multiple levels despite Watson insisting that everything was done safely.
The NFL prohibits gatherings of more than three team members away from club facilities. Players are also required to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks away from the field of play, per the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.
Watson insisted after the opening that the event didn’t break COVID-19 protocols.
“I mean, we had the masks," Watson told reporters. "We did everything that we were supposed to do. Six feet from different people.”
The photos below demonstrate that Watson’s claim is not true.
Deshaun Watson @deshaunwatson event @charless_94 @KingTunsil78 @RodBeBalling @voltpt_ @AlexDWeb1 @brandincooks @DukeJohnson_8 @ChesterPitts @levelstothis_2 Willie D, Z-Ro, Watson's family and girlfriend @JillyAnais @eatleftys @NickScurfield @StickysChicken Ryan Lachaine, etc pic.twitter.com/yX74XCj2jS
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) December 15, 2020
Deshaun Watson opened a restaurant during a pandemic?
Watson used the publicity behind the party to encourage people to attend the restaurant, which was opened as the COVID-19 pandemic reaches new peaks in the United States. Aside from the timing of the opening being a questionable business decision, Watson is urging the public to take COVID-19 risks to buy his cheesesteaks.
He also fell back on a mindset that has allowed the pandemic to thrive in the United States, convincing himself that his gathering was an exception to the realities of an airborne pandemic.
“It was a restaurant opening,” Watson said last week. “It wasn't really an event. It was a grand opening of my restaurant. So people were coming in to get food and things like that, and everyone was excited about it.
“So, it turned out pretty good, and right now from the messages I got from after, it's still popping.”
Will NFL step in?
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said last week that the league is aware of the gathering but declined further comment. The league has issued fines and penalties for similar gathering among other teams, most notably an indoor charity event in Nevada that saw several Las Vegas Raiders players fined for attending without wearing masks.
Quarterback Derek Carr was among multiple Raiders players fined $15,000.
The NFL’s penalties and protocols have become stricter as the pandemic has worsened and wreaked havoc on the league schedule. With the playoffs approaching and the pandemic claiming thousands of lives daily in the United States, Watson and his teammates could still be hit with additional penalties from the league.
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