Deshaun Watson is footing the bill for his Houston Texans teammates’ trip to his new cheesesteak restaurant. The trip turned out to be quite expensive.
The Texans quarterback said Wednesday he will pay the fines handed down by the NFL for violations of the NFL’s COVID-19 safety protocols, which forbid gatherings of more than three players outside of club facilities. At least seven Texans players were reportedly in attendance at the restaurant, a Lefty’s Cheesesteak franchise in which Watson holds a minority stake.
Watson himself was reportedly fined $7,500, while his teammates were docked $5,000. He told reporters that teammates initially pushed back on his reimbursement, but he insisted.
“I told those guys I'm going to take care of it,” Watson said. “We don't want to cause any other distractions.”
.@deshaunwatson says he’s covering the fines his teammates have to pay the #Texans after supporting him at the opening of his Lefty’s Cheesesteaks. Watson & teammates who were there were fined for not following NFL/Texans protocol which calls for wearing masks at events like that pic.twitter.com/22vlium3wh
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 23, 2020
Watson’s full explanation:
They were all saying, ‘Nah, we’re going to pay it,’ because they really just showed the love and support, they didn’t really care about the fine, what the NFL was really trying to do with it. So they were just like, ‘Nah,’ but I just told them ‘Nah, I’ll just take care of it, you guys were just showing love and support and really just enjoying the food. I really appreciate the support from the guys and my teammates and everyone that came by. They weren’t really sweating the fine, but at the same time, I just told them I was going to do it.
Thanks to the four-year, $156 million extension Watson signed before the season, he should be able to afford it.
Texans players were maskless at Watson’s restaurant
Watson had initially defended the gathering by claiming COVID-19 safety protocols had been followed with masks and social distancing, but readily available photographic evidence — as well as basic counting — indicated otherwise.
Photos from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle showed Watson and several of his teammates taking pictures in close contact and without masks. The Texans apparently weren’t amused by the clear breach in protocol.
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
The Texans aren’t the first team to see punishment for obvious COVID-19 violations. Several members of the Las Vegas Raiders were also fined for attending a charity event in which they were seen maskless and mingling, with fines going as high as $15,000.
In the Raiders’ case, the fines came from the NFL. We’ll see if the league decides to also penalize the Texans players after the team’s own punishment.
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