This post has been updated below to reflect that the Patriots have released Antonio Brown.
All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of raping and sexually assaulting his former trainer in a civil lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court.
The suit claims Brown assaulted Britney Taylor in three separate incidents between 2017 and 2018. Taylor, a former college gymnast who met Brown when the two were both students at Central Michigan University and later served as his personal trainer, has come forward publicly with her accusation. She explained her decision in a statement released by her lawyer, David Haas.
“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision. I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault. Speaking out removes the shame that I have felt for the past year and places it on the person responsible for my rape. I will cooperate with the NFL and any other agencies; however, at this time, I respectfully request that the media please respect my privacy.”
Here’s what we know so far:
The allegations against Antonio Brown
According to the lawsuit, Taylor first met Brown in 2010 at Central Michigan. The pair maintained an on-and-off friendship over the following years as Brown moved on to the NFL and Taylor transferred to Louisiana State University to continue her gymnastics career. This connection led the wide receiver to hire Taylor as a personal trainer in the summer of 2017. She alleges the first assault took place soon after in one of his Pittsburgh-area homes.
Taylor’s suit claims that, weeks later, Brown sexually assaulted her again. According to Taylor, he later referenced the incident in text messages included in the legal filing. She claims this resulted in the two terminating their business and personal relationship.
Taylor began working for Brown again in April 2018, under the condition the two keep their working relationship entirely professional. She also expanded her role beyond training and handled personal assistant duties for a player whose life was deemed “apparent chaos” in Taylor’s lawsuit. On May 20, 2018, she claims Brown physically overpowered and raped her.
Taylor is suing Brown for compensation for her “physical injuries, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, loss of self esteem and self-confidence, and emotional pain and suffering.” It also seeks “an award of punitive damages, in an amount to be determined at trial, sufficient to deter [Brown] from engaging in future illegal and/or wrongful conduct.”
It is not yet clear whether Taylor reported her accusations to police in either Pennsylvania or Florida. Brown is not currently facing criminal charges related to this civil suit, though Pennsylvania police have reportedly been in contact with Taylor regarding the 2017 encounters. No charges can be filed related to either incident, however, as the two-year statute of limitations for prosecution has since expired.
Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, federal judge Rodney Smith has been selected to oversee this case.
What Antonio Brown is saying in response
Through his lawyer, Darren Heitner, Brown has denied any wrongdoing and claims he and his accuser engaged in consensual sex. He also alluded to a potential countersuit to clear his name.
Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit. He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name, but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.
Antonio Brown will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including exercising all of his rights in countersuits.— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) September 11, 2019
Brown’s legal team also alleged the civil suit may be motivated by a supposed decision not to invest $1.6 million in a business project Taylor had brought to his attention.
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN he and his client had been anticipating the lawsuit and that he takes it very seriously, but that he is not guilty of the accusations by Taylor.
“These allegations are false,” said Rosenhaus. “[Brown] denies every one of them. I’m confident his legal team has facts that will prove this.
“Antonio will cooperate. With the Patriots. With the NFL. With any investigation with the NFLPA. And, in time, Antonio will be cleared.”
Taylor reportedly approached Brown with an opportunity to settle the matter privately in exchange for more than $2 million. The receiver, per ESPN, rejected this offer at approximately the same time he decided to sign a one-year contract with New England.
What could happen next with the NFL
Brown’s then-employer, the New England Patriots, issued a statement saying they were aware of the accusations against their player, but had no comment while the league begins its formal investigation into the matter.
“We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives. We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.”
“Both Antonio and his representatives have made statements,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the press. “I’m not going to be expanding on any of those. They are what they are. The situation, we’re taking it very seriously all the way through the organization. I’m sure you have questions, but I’m not going to be discussing any of that.”
Taylor met with league officials in September, the week after filing her lawsuit. The meeting lasted around 10 hours, according to CNN.
An unnamed second player, who is mentioned in Taylor’s suit as being in the house at the time of the rape, will also be compelled to participate in the league investigation. According to a Pro Football Talk report, that player is Ravens rookie Marquise Brown, a cousin of Antonio’s. There are no accusations against Marquise Brown.
Brown will also be subject to the league’s personal conduct policy, pending the results of its investigation.
Brown met with the league investigators in November in an eight-hour interview.
I was also told the NFL had 3 representatives in the interview with Antonio Brown. Although 2 were in there most of the time. It was led by Lisa Friel. I'm also told there may be some follow-ups and then the full decision-making process is expected, per source.— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 15, 2019
The NFL issues a baseline six-game suspension for first-time offenders of its policy, though it could take other factors into account. Per SI’s Robert Klemko, police were dispatched to investigate domestic incidents involving Brown and women with whom he’s fathered children.
There was also another sexual misconduct allegation involving a painter Brown had hired. Klemko reported that in the days following his story, Brown sent the painter “intimidating” text messages, which her lawyer then forwarded to the NFL. The league investigators were then involved, and shortly after, Brown was released by the Patriots.
While no charges were filed in any of those incidents, the NFL has previously handed down discipline in cases where prosecutors declined to take their case to court, most notably banning Ezekiel Elliott for six games in 2017.
Brown made his Patriots debut in Week 2, but that was it for his tenure in red, white, and blue. He was released hours after a terse press conference in which Belichick declined to acknowledge any questions about Brown.
The roster move effectively means Brown took up $10 million in guarantees to play in one game with New England. However, early indications suggest the team will be able to recoup that money with the exception of Brown’s game check from Week 2.
For now Antonio Brown leaves behind dead cap hits of $5.5M in 2019 & $4.5M in 2020 with the #Patriots, though it’s likely all but the $153,920 he earned in two weeks will be credited back next year.— Spotrac (@spotrac) September 20, 2019
AB now accounts for a combined $26.6M of 2019 dead cap w/ the #Steelers & Pats.
Brown is now a free agent eligible to sign with any team. Brown posted on his Instagram that he was set to visit with the Saints, but even if he does sign that contract, don’t expect to see him immediately contribute to a Super Bowl run for New Orleans.
Important note: The NFL has made clear that if someone signs AB, he’s likely headed to the Commissioner’s Exempt list until his investigation is complete. https://t.co/Fax00YmAbV— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 27, 2019
As of now, the NFL investigation into Brown is still ongoing, per a statement released by the NFL:
“As long as Mr. Brown is a free agent, placement on the Commissioner’s exempt list is not appropriate. If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he may also be subject to discipline if the investigation finds that he has violated the law or league policies.”
He also filed grievances against the Patriots and Raiders in pursuit of $40 million in salary and guarantees voided by the two teams.
We’ll have more updates as this story develops.