Ron Schwane/AP/Shutterstock Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson, a Cleveland Browns quarterback, is set to make his return to the NFL for the first time this season on Sunday following an 11-game suspension after being hit with sexual misconduct allegations.
Earlier this year, two dozen accusers alleged that Watson committed indecent acts during massage therapy appointments, including allegedly exposing himself. Watson has settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits, with the most recent three ending in confidential settlements. The quarterback has not been criminally charged and has continually maintained his innocence.
As Watson takes the field for the first time this year on Sunday at Houston's NRG Stadium, at least 10 of his accusers plan to be in attendance for the Browns vs. Texans game.
"Some of my clients asked to go," the accusers' attorney Tony Buzbee told PEOPLE on Tuesday. "They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter. I was proud of them for that. I have made that opportunity available to them. I haven't been to a Texans game in many years. But, because they are going I will go."
He added, "I think it's important to note each of these women is different. You can't paint them with a broad brush. I would never encourage any of them to attend. Some never want to hear Watson's name again. Others have put it in the past. Some are still angry. Others are defiant. Makes me proud they want to stand up and be counted rather than quietly go away. Good on them!"
Buzbee also told ESPN they want to attend "to kind of make the statement, 'Hey, we're still here. We matter. Our voice was heard, and this is not something that's over. [Sexual harassment and assault] happen every day in the United States.' "
In March, Watson faced two grand juries in Texas — he was playing for the Houston Texans at the time of the alleged assaults — both of which declined to charge him. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in June, "Deshaun Watson did nothing wrong. And as two grand juries have made clear, Deshaun did nothing illegal."
During a private hearing in June, the NFL pushed to indefinitely suspend Watson and fine him $5 million, according to The Associated Press.
Watson's initial suspension was six games without pay but was upgraded to 11 games.
According to the NFL, Watson's fine and two $1 million contributions from the league and the Browns will be used to create a $7 million fund for non-profit organizations that "educate young people on healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault, support survivors, and related causes."
Watson thanked the team and said he was "grateful that the disciplinary process has ended."
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"I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused," he said. "I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I'm away from the team. I'm excited about what the future holds for me in Cleveland."