New England Patriots releases superstar Antonio Brown after rape and threat claims

Key Points
  • The New England Patriots releases superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown.
  • Brown is facing allegations of sexual assault and claims he sent intimidating text messages to a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment.
  • Robert Kraft, owner of the Super Bowl championship team, was charged with receiving sexual services for pay in Florida earlier this year.
Football player Antonio Brown dropped from Patriots over rape allegations

The New England Patriots released Antonio Brown on Friday on the heels of claims that the superstar wide receiver had raped one woman and sent threatening text messages to a second woman, who had accused him of sexual harassment.

"The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown," the reigning Super Bowl champion franchise said in a statement.

"We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time," the Patriots said.

The Patriots signed Brown, 31, less than two weeks ago, right after his controversial departure from the Oakland Raiders.

In a tweet to the Patriots, Brown said, "Thanks for the opportunity."

He included photos from his single game with the team.

Brown tweet

The NFL had no immediate comment. But according to lawyers for one of his accusers, the league has said "it will continue to investigate all claims regarding his behavior."

Just two days after Brown signed with the Patriots, a former physical trainer filed a civil lawsuit accusing Brown of sexually assaulting her three separate times.

The woman, Britney Taylor, met with National Football League investigators Monday.

The NFL has not taken any disciplinary action so far against Brown, who has denied Taylor's claims.

Taylor's lawyers declined to comment on his release by the Patriots.

The Patriots allowed Brown to play and kept him on the team on the heels of Taylor's allegations. And he remained on the team after another woman, an artist, was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article saying Brown had made an unwanted sexual advance toward her and fired her after she did not reciprocate.

But on Thursday, Sports Illustrated published a new story saying that on Wednesday the woman received what she took as intimidating text messages from Brown following the magazine's first story about her claims.

"The text chain, with four other phone numbers on it, included photos of her and her children, with the person she believes is Brown encouraging others in the group to investigate the woman," reported Sports Illustrated, which has not identified the woman.

On Friday, shortly before Brown's release, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers for the unidentified woman, said the NFL told them the league had contacted the Patriots about the text messages.

The lawyers also said that the NFL had "pledged to conduct a thorough investigation under its Personal Conduct Policy," and advised us that the Patriots directed Mr. Brown to have no further contact with our client, either directly or through his associates."

"The NFL also advised us that it contacted Mr. Brown's representative and reiterated that Mr. Brown was to cease and desist efforts to contact or intimidate our client," Banks and Katz said.

Katz last year represented Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were high school students in the 1980s.

Banks and Katz, in a statement about Brown's release, said: "The NFL and the Patriots clearly took our client's concerns seriously. She wanted the threats and intimidation to stop and we hope that will be [the] case."

"The NFL has assured us that regardless of Antonio Brown's roster status, it will continue to investigate all claims regarding his behavior."

"We are gratified that the NFL recognized that it has an important role to play in policing player conduct that is sexually harassing and threatening," the lawyers said.

New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown puts on his shoes on the field during New England Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Sep. 18, 2019.
Tom Tlumacki | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Hours before Brown was released, Patriots coach Bill Belichick ended a press conference minutes after it started when all the questions from reporters were about Brown.

"OK, so, yeah. Yeah. I'm good," Belichick said. "Thank you. I think we had enough of that."

The release is the latest chapter in a stunning fall for Brown, one of the most successful and marketable players in the NFL in recent years.

In March, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded the All-Pro receiver to the Oakland Raiders after he clashed with the team during the 2018 season.

His tenure in Oakland was rocky from the start.

He battled with the NFL over its refusal to let him wear his preferred helmet, and he suffered frostbite from treatments for foot injuries.

Then Brown butted heads with the team's general manager, Mike Mayock, reportedly threatening to punch Mayock after the Raiders fined him for missing practice and a walkthrough session for the team.

The Raiders cut Brown earlier this month, voiding $30 million in guaranteed payments to him.

Athletic apparel giant Nike stopped sponsoring Brown earlier this week, as did helmet maker Xenith.

The Patriots came under fire for keeping Brown on the team after the rape claim became public.

The allegation added to the backlash the NFL has faced in recent years for its handling of cases of alleged sexual assault and domestic violence by players.

Months earlier, Patriots billionaire owner Robert Kraft was criminally charged in Florida, where prosecutors alleged that he received sexual services for pay during back-to-back visits at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter in January.

Prosecutors are appealing a judge's ruling that bars them from using as evidence videos of Kraft's visit to the spa.

The second of Kraft's visits occurred hours before he watched his Patriots defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

He has pleaded not guilty in the case, which was filed weeks after the team won its sixth Super Bowl title. Among the most prominent of all NFL team owners, Kraft is one of two dozen men accused of getting sex for money at the spa, all of whom were charged on the basis of surveillance video.

Read the statement by Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers for an artist who says she was sexually harassed by Antonio Brown while working at his home. The statement was released Friday shortly before Brown's release by the Patriots.

Yesterday evening, we sent a copy of the below letter to the NFL regarding Antonio Brown and his sexual harassment and intimidation of our client. This morning as a follow-up to our letter, we had a productive conversation with NFL officials, who have given us every indication that they take this matter very seriously. We thank them for moving swiftly and decisively.

The NFL has pledged to conduct a thorough investigation under its Personal Conduct Policy. We will cooperate fully with the NFL in this investigation to ensure that the threats and intimidation against our client cease, and that she and her family remain safe.

In addition to the investigation, the NFL has assured us that they promptly contacted the New England Patriots and representatives for Mr. Brown. The NFL advised us that the Patriots directed Mr. Brown to have no further contact with our client, either directly or through his associates. The NFL also advised us that it contacted Mr. Brown's representative and reiterated that Mr. Brown was to cease and desist efforts to contact or intimidate our client.

As always, it is important that harassment and intimidation against victims is taken seriously, that victims have appropriate avenues for recourse, and that such behavior is not tolerated – either by an employer such as the NFL, or by society at large.

Read the letter Banks and Katz sent the NFL on Thursday.

Troy Vincent

Executive Vice President of Football Operations

Brian McCarthy

Vice President of Communications

National Football League

345 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10154

Re: Antonio Brown

Dear Mr. Vincent and Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to report that Antonio Brown, a wide receiver with the New England Patriots, has engaged in conduct intimidating and threatening to our client, in violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

On September 16, 2019, Sports Illustrated published an article entitled, "There's More History to Antonio Brown's History," which discussed a June 2017 incident involving our client, an artist who painted a portrait of Mr. Brown which he subsequently purchased at a charity auction benefiting the National Youth Foundation. The article detailed allegations of both the charity foundation official and the artist who painted a portrait of Mr. Brown that he agreed to purchase for $700, but subsequently failed to pay.

Among other things, the article detailed our client's allegations that Mr. Brown hired her to come to his home in Pittsburgh to paint a mural of himself at the rate of $1,000 per day. On the first day painting in his home, Mr. Brown flirted with her but our client felt that she could handle the situation. However, on the second day Mr. Brown approached her from behind, naked, holding a small towel over his genitals. She understood his behavior to be a clear sexual come-on, which was unwelcome. (What is not detailed in the story is that Mr. Brown engaged in other forms of sexual misconduct during the two days that she worked in his home, which included Mr. Brown having sex with another woman while the artist was working in the same room.) Robert Klemko, the author of the Sports Illustrated article, learned about the incident from the charity foundation, and reached out to our client, who agreed to talk to him on the condition he maintain her anonymity.

Soon after publication of the story, Mr. Brown, who apparently recalled the events described in the story and understood who had made the anonymous allegation, began sending insulting and threatening text messages to our client. Consistent with the Sports Illustrated article's depiction of a "man who rose from poverty and anonymity to stardom and wealth . . . only to make a habit of insulting, attacking and betraying people he [sees] as being beneath his station," Mr. Brown and four of his associates included our client in a text exchange where they disparaged her as being " super broke," exchanged a picture of her young children and criticized their appearance, and threatened to "look up her background" and contact a prominent hip hop artist she referenced in a social media post to ask questions about her. Participants in the text exchange included a convicted steroid and drug dealer, and someone who appears to be one of Mr. Brown's lawyers.

Our client, a single mother of three, who holds down three jobs – as an artist, an art teacher at a prison, and a bartender – is understandably frightened by these text messages, which are clearly intended to threaten and intimidate her. While she certainly qualifies as a "starving artist," she has never approached Mr. Brown, nor will she, about seeking money to compensate her for his sexual misconduct, contrary to his allegations in the text messages. Until recently, she had never addressed the incident at all, and had even chosen not to pursue his failure to pay her for the painting he had acquired at the charity auction, or his failure to return a painting she brought to his home to show him. Rather, for the past two years, she has been focused on her work and children.

We have included the relevant text messages here, which are clearly in violation of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, as they amount to "[s]talking, harassment, or other forms of intimidation."[1] We request that the NFL conduct an appropriate investigation into Mr. Brown's threatening actions and also take steps to ensure that he and his associates immediately cease their harassment and intimidation of our client and her family.

Please feel free to contact me or my law partner Debra Katz to discuss this matter further. We look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Lisa J. Banks


cc: Stacey James

Vice President of Media Relations

New England Patriots

Drew Rosenhaus

Rosenhaus Sports Representation

[1] To shield our client's identity and protect her from further harm, we have redacted certain identifying portions of the text message exchange, as well as images of herself and her children. The first text redactions relate to a caption that our client included in a social media post that Mr. Brown screenshotted and circulated on the text exchange. The second, larger set of redactions involve Mr. Brown's excerpting of a social media post related to our client.