Deshaun Watson Controversy: Is It Difficult to Hire Controversial Stars Such as Deshaun Watson?

American football quarterback Derrick Deshaun Watson (born September 14, 1995) plays for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.

He was the starting quarterback for the 2016 national champion Clemson Tigers football team. Watson was chosen by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Deshaun Watson Controversy

Case in point: the sexual misconduct charges against star quarterback Deshaun Watson, highlight the difficulties bosses have when considering recruiting highly capable yet very controversial senior workers.

Watson led Clemson to the 2018 NCAA college football title, and he promptly became one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL while playing for the Houston Texans.

Deshaun Watson Controversy

After Watson requested to be traded due to his dissatisfaction with his role in Houston, the Astros agreed to let him leave after the 2021 season. Watson, at age 26, was much sought after in a league where quarterback performance is crucial to winning.

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Watson had to deal with major personal conduct difficulties away from the field. As many as 24 women have accused him of sexually harassing or assaulting them during massage treatment sessions. Based on these charges, he was also investigated by a grand jury.

The Cleveland Browns, a franchise that has struggled for years but has recently shown signs of improvement, were looking for a top-tier quarterback to guide their promising young roster.

They presented the Texans with a staggering package that included not one but two future number one overall pick and a five-year, $230 million contract for Watson. In essence, the team’s immediate future was now dependent on Mr. Watson’s abilities and availability.

Deshaun Watson Controversy

In spite of Watson’s potential as a player, the Browns’ decision to sign him was met with a barrage of criticism from the very supporters the team was trying to win over.


Women who root for the Browns were particularly vocal in their displeasure.

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to prosecute Watson on criminal charges, but he resolved civil action with 20 of the 24 women who had filed complaints against him. Even so, Watson could still get a serious penalty for violating the NFL’s policy on player conduct.

Therefore, the Browns made a huge risk, both strategically and monetarily. But they knew what they were getting into, taking a chance on the individual, his abilities, his eventual availability, and the prospect that the damage to his reputation might diminish as victories piled up.

There’s no guarantee, but there usually isn’t when businesses resort to controversial methods of talent acquisition in an attempt to escape dire conditions.

Every industry has its share of tainted celebrities: the brilliant surgeon who has a history of abusing staff, the high-performing CFO who has made a few too many ethical lapses, the aggressive innovator whose proprietary claims are constantly being challenged, and the visionary CEO who has been accused of harassment.

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While the titles and fields of these polarizing celebrities may differ, they all have three things in common: the promise of a silver bullet, undisputed skill, and a murky past. 

Deshaun Watson Controversy

It can be costly to hire one of these experts. They tend to be aloof, demanding, and high-strung.
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They may be less of a team member and more of a mercenary. However, they present a huge opportunity for growth for the business.

The corporation often sees them as the final piece of the puzzle, the strategic solution, the panacea to their most pressing problems. They are generally thought to be worth the risk since they frequently deliver on that promise, at least in the near term.

However, the Watson controversy hints that these threats may be more substantial and compelling than the administration initially anticipated.

The price that was spent to obtain Watson was just ridiculous. The team’s credibility as upstanding members of the community, and especially among many of its own fans, has taken a major hit.


Watson’s presence may be a major disruption to the efficiency of the squad as a whole. Watson and the Browns are essentially hanging on a thread as the threat of a lengthy ban from the NFL looms over them.

This in no way implies that top-level executives shouldn’t give serious thought to potentially divisive deals for top personnel.
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Deshaun Watson Controversy

In the business world, the law encourages calculated risk-taking. However, it is prudent for leadership to exercise a comprehensive and rigorous level of due diligence whenever making such purchases. In the eyes of the law, a corporation should not wilfully ignore safety precautions. 

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An in-depth analysis of the top performer’s past performance is required. Was this person actually in charge of producing such enticing outcomes, or did someone else have their hand on the tiller?

If the star is expected to fit in with the company’s culture, what information do we have about that person? In what ways might the company’s reputation be damaged, and how might that affect the people who matter to it its employees, its customers, and its community?

In these cases, upper management shouldn’t have all the responsibility for making a personnel choice. The board has substantial supervision responsibilities, beginning with the justification for such a talent acquisition and extending to the costs and likelihood of success.

The board also needs to take a hard look at itself to determine if the proposed talent acquisition is more distraction than strategy, or if it actually helps the company address the underlying issues.

If your company is deep in its own end zone with little time left on the clock, going for broke by pursuing high-risk, high-reward executive talent can be a winning strategy. It’s possible for this to be a last-ditch effort that forces an opponent to give the ball back in the end zone.

Deshaun Watson Controversy

Whether or not a play is successful depends on a number of factors, including the play’s design, the team’s personnel, the team’s game strategy, and the players’ willingness to keep to it.

When viewed through the lens of corporate leadership, the contentious issue of talent acquisition rarely presents a black-and-white choice. Leaders, as the Deshaun Watson controversy shows, need to consider all angles when weighing the benefits and risks of a move like this.

There is a fine line between being an also-ran and winning the Super Bowl, and taking risks with complete knowledge of the consequences can help you walk that line.

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