The Houston Police Department said on Friday that it had begun an investigation concerning Deshaun Watson, the star quarterback for the Houston Texans, after a complaint was filed against him.
The department’s announcement on Twitter did not specify the nature of the report, and it was not clear whether the person who filed the complaint was one of the 21 women who have filed civil lawsuits in Harris County, Texas, accusing Watson of assault and sexual misconduct.
Until Friday, there was no indication of a police report filed against Watson, though Tony Buzbee, the lawyer representing the women in the civil cases, had said that he and his clients planned to provide evidence to the authorities.
“As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process,” the department said on Twitter.
All of the accusers, according to the lawsuits, have filed claims seeking monetary damages.
The Police Department’s announcement was the latest development in a case that has unfolded over the past three weeks against one of the best and most recognizable players in the N.F.L., whose request to be traded from the Texans — made months before the first complaint was filed, on March 16 — has so far been rebuffed.
Buzbee has announced accusations against Watson over social media and has used platforms such as Instagram to solicit potential clients. Buzbee and Rusty Hardin, the prominent Houston-based defense lawyer representing Watson, have sparred in statements, each trying to discredit the other’s tactics.
Watson, 25, has not commented publicly since March 16, when he said on Twitter that he had “never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect” and that he had rejected “a baseless six-figure settlement demand” made by Buzbee before the first suit was filed.
In a statement Friday night, Buzbee said that other criminal complaints would follow in Houston, as well as in other jurisdictions. He added that his legal team had filed a 22nd lawsuit Friday, with the plaintiff echoing the other women’s claims of lewd and coercive behavior by Watson.
Hardin said in a statement that he welcomed the criminal investigation, which he called “long overdue.”
“Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser,” Hardin said. “We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”
The 21 suits filed to date accuse Watson of engaging in a pattern of lewd behavior with women hired to provide personal services. In those suits, he is said to have coerced the women to touch him in a sexual manner, exposed himself to women he had hired for massages or moved his body in ways that forced them to touch his penis. The incidents cited in the suits were said to have taken place from March 2020 to March 2021, and in four states: Texas, Arizona, California and Georgia.
In a statement on Friday, the N.F.L. said it was “continuing to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review of the Personal Conduct Policy.”
The policy allows the commissioner to suspend players or other league employees with pay while the league investigates allegations against them. The league relies on law enforcement and court records in addition to information gathered by its own investigators, including former prosecutors with experience handling cases involving sexual assault.
The N.F.L. is in the midst of its off-season, so Watson and other players are not with their teams or visiting their sites for conditioning or practices. With the exception of certain bonuses, players are paid only during the season.