Antonio Brown was released by the Patriots on Friday after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct. New England is the third team in seven months to tire of the off-field behaviour that has overshadowed his accomplishments as one of the NFL’s most prolific receivers for a decade.
The defending Super Bowl champions announced the move in a statement emailed to reporters, three minutes after Brown posted on Twitter: “Thank you for the opportunity Patriots. Go Win It.”
Thanks for the opportunity appreciate <a href=”https://twitter.com/Patriots?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Patriots</a> <a href=”https://t.co/envfHEd6N8″>pic.twitter.com/envfHEd6N8</a>
Brown has been accused of rape in a lawsuit by a former trainer. He also faces allegations that he exposed himself to an artist he hired to paint a mural at his home. Brown has denied the accusations.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady both declined to comment on Brown during their scheduled media availability Friday. Belichick said during the morning that the team was looking into “some things,” then cut off his news conference when reporters continued to ask about Brown.
Asked if he expected Brown to play in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, Belichick said, “He’s on the roster.”
About five hours later, he wasn’t.
Statement from a <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Patriots?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Patriots</a> spokesperson: <a href=”https://t.co/c98rNDX9QG”>https://t.co/c98rNDX9QG</a> <a href=”https://t.co/DAohupBLHo”>pic.twitter.com/DAohupBLHo</a>
In the email attributed to “a Patriots spokesperson,” the team said: “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.”
According to a story in Sports Illustrated, the painter “received a group text message that appeared to come from the same phone number Brown provided to her in 2017. 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. The texter accused the artist of fabricating her account of the 2017 incident for cash.”
Lawyers for the artist said in a statement that the league and the Patriots “took our client’s concerns seriously.”
“She wanted the threats and intimidation to stop and we hope that will be case,” said a statement emailed to reporters from attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz. “The NFL has assured us that regardless of Antonio Brown’s roster status, it will continue to investigate all claims regarding his behaviour.”
Earlier this week, Nike cut ties with the receiver, saying in an email, “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete.”
A four-time All-Pro who caught 837 passes over nine seasons with the Steelers, Brown wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh after he went missing for two days before the 2018 season finale. The Steelers traded him to Oakland, which signed him to a contract that would have paid him up to $50 million over the next three seasons.
But he never played a game for the Raiders, quarreling with the coach and general manager until they, too, released him. The Patriots signed him only a few hours later, giving him a one-year deal that would have guaranteed him $9 million and paid him up to $15 million this season.
Brown’s teammates said Friday they are trying to concentrate on the game, and Brown appeared to be doing the same.
“He seems pretty focused to me,” receiver Julian Edelman said. “He’s a professional. You don’t get to be a player like him by tiddlywinking around.”