Rice addressed Watson during an online chat during a press conference at Firestone Country Club in Akron, explaining that she will wait for all investigations to be concluded before passing judgment.
“I’m someone who believes you keep an open mind until all of the facts are evident,” Rice said. “I know the league is doing an investigation, the Browns have done an investigation. I will just wait to see what the outcome is. These are serious matters. I think every woman feels that these are serious matters, but hopefully people will get to the bottom of it and we’ll see where we are in a couple of months.”
The Browns acquired Watson from the Houston Texans earlier this year after the quarterback was already accused of sexual assault by 22 women who alleged misconduct during massage therapy sessions. The number of civil lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual misconduct has since risen to 26.
Despite the widespread accusations, Rice prefers to take a wait-and-see approach as Watson maintains his innocence.
“I’ve been honest and I’ve been truthful about my stance and that’s I never forced anyone, I never assaulted anyone,” Watson told reporters this week. “So that’s what I’ve been saying it from the beginning and I’m going to continue to do that until all the facts come out on the legal side.”
Rice’s stance on the more than two dozen civil lawsuits that have been filed against Watson echoes that of Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who is similarly keeping an open mind. Earlier this month, Stefanski told reporters, “I am going to be respectful of the investigation, of the legal proceedings and I am going to let that play out.”
Interestingly, Rice was linked to the Browns head coaching job in 2018, when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the franchise was interested in interviewing the 66th Secretary of State for the opening. The Browns ultimately hired Freddie Kitchens in 2019 and he was replaced by Stefanski in 2020.