Rape Accusations Could Finish Antonio Brown

Days after orchestrating his way out of Oakland, with the assistance of a slick online video campaign and a social media adviser, All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of rape by his former personal trainer Britney Taylor, who has decided to make her name public.

In the civil lawsuit she filed against him, Taylor says that Brown assaulted her on three separate occasions. She met Brown when both were students at Central Michigan. She was a freshman gymnast and he was a senior. They were both members of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and were partners in their Bible study group. It was Brown who reached out to Taylor, years later, to see if she would become his trainer.

In a statement released through her lawyer, Taylor said,

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.

Her complaint includes evidence of Brown boasting, in extremely profane and violent fashion, about one of the alleged assaults in two e-mails which Taylor has released to the public.

According to his attorney Darren Heitner, Antonio 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.” Heitner says that they had a consensual relationship and the lawsuit comes after Brown denied Taylor a $1.6 million investment. “Mr. Brown…refuses to be the victim of what he believes to be a money grab.”

According to all manner of “NFL insiders”—trusted media members whom NFL executives leak information to—no one saw this coming. The Patriots were apparently as blindsided as the whole league. “We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives,” the Patriots said in a statement late Tuesday night. “We take these allegations very seriously.… The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.”

Even if this case is settled or dismissed, and even if no criminal charges are brought, Brown could be suspended or even expelled from the league as part of its collectively bargained personal conduct policy. Normally, the league will not suspend a player without pay until a case has been adjudicated in a court of law. However, a player also doesn’t have to be convicted of anything to be suspended.

There is also the option of suspending Brown with pay. Given the vile nature of the e-mails that were released, this may be Brown’s fate. The question now is whether Brown will ever actually play in a New England Patriots uniform and make his highly anticipated debut this weekend against the Miami Dolphins. Despite its buttoned-down image and string of Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots team has already been mired in scandal, from owner Bob Kraft’s arrest at a massage parlor in the off-season to its employment of the late convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. They’re certainly not looking for more, especially from a player whose choreographed antics have already earned him the ire of much of the league.

Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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