By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It took all of a single day for the Patriots to find themselves dealing with their first Antonio Brown-induced headache, as the talented-but-troubled wideout has been hit with a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting a woman in three separate incidents beginning in June 2017, according to the New York Times.
The lawsuit against Brown comes from Britney Taylor, who was a student-athlete at Central Michigan University with Brown, served as Brown's personal trainer in recent years, and currently coaches gymnastics at her own studio (Taylor'ed Gymnastics in Tennessee), and alleges that Brown twice sexually assaulted her at his Pittsburgh residence in 2017 before a third incident at Brown's Florida home in 2018.
According to Taylor's lawsuit, Brown first assaulted Taylor in July 2017 when he exposed himself to her and kissed her without permission during one of their training sessions. The second incident came shortly after, as Brown allegedly masturbated and ejaculated on Taylor's back (without her knowing) as she watched a church service on her iPad.
But the most troubling incident occurred in that third incident in Florida, according to the lawsuit, as Taylor's alleges that it was then that Brown held Taylor down against her will and forcibly had intercourse with her despite her repeated requests for Brown to stop.
“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision," Taylor said in a statement released Tuesday night. "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.”
Given the heavy and sensitive nature of such an accusation, there's already been a ton of information to unpack on both sides of the lawsuit, and here's what we know about the A.B. situation entering the early morning in Boston...
Brown, Taylor have known one another since college
Like Brown, Taylor was a student-athlete at the aforementioned Central Michigan University. According to the lawsuit, Brown and Taylor met at bible study during their time at CMU, stayed in touch after Brown made the NFL, and truly reconnected after school when Brown allegedly reached out to Taylor on Facebook in 2017 to ask her to help train him.
Taylor's lawsuit claims that her first sexual assault at the hands of Brown came during one of those training sessions.
Brown's camp has come out with a strong denial, will countersue for civil extortion
It didn't take long for Brown's camp to come out with a strong denial of the allegations against the 31-year-old Brown, as Darren Heitner posted a statement on Twitter in direct response to the New York Times' report.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) September 11, 2019
According to the statement from Heitner, Brown and Taylor had consensual sex throughout the entirety of their relationship, and that Taylor traveled from Tennessee to Florida just 10 days after the alleged assault took place.
Heitner also stated that Brown "refuses to be the victim of what he believes to be a money grab" on the part of Taylor. That "money grab," according to the statement, comes with Taylor originally seeking a $1.6 million investment from Brown for her business, and with Taylor dealing with a $300,000 tax lien from the IRS. Heitner's statement also claims that Taylor cut off communication with Brown when he refused to give Taylor that $1.6 million investment, but resurfaced and restarted her relationship with the then-Steeler wide receiver in 2018.
Brown will reportedly countersue Taylor for civil extortion, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.
The Patriots did not know about the civil lawsuit
If Brown knew about this lawsuit, he did not tell the Patriots, as they were reportedly 'caught by surprise' when the news broke on Tuesday night, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. That would certainly add up, as the Patriots had already traded veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Jets by the time the story broke. Also speaking to the idea that this blindsided them? They released a statement just before midnight, almost three hours after the news broke.
“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 statement read. "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.”
The NFL is investigating the incident
As confirmed by the Patriots' statement, the National Football League will indeed conduct their own investigation of the situation. Now what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finds is anybody's guess, but there's an interesting wrinkle in the Brown situation, as he's still eligible to play because of the nature of the lawsuit, per Mike Tannenbaum.
Because the Rape and Sexual assault accusations are in a civil lawsuit Antonio Brown remains eligible to play.
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) September 11, 2019
But according to Schefter, there is the possibility that Goodell moves Brown to the commissioner's exempt list during the investigation, which would indeed take him off the field for the Patriots. If that were to happen, Brown, who was officially added to the Patriot roster on Monday, would not count against the 53-man roster throughout that process.
For what it's worth, this is not Brown's first trouble with the legal system.
Brown was sued in Oct. 2018 for an April. 2018 incident where he threw furniture off his 14th-floor balcony. The lawsuit against Brown back then alleged that Brown's furniture-tossing event nearly left a 22-month old child struck by errant furniture. Brown ended up reaching a settlement with the plaintiff, the father of the toddler, this past April, which included a charitable donation, according to Brown. Brown was also involved in a Jan. 2019 domestic dispute in which he allegedly shoved the mother of his daughter to the ground. Police were called and a report was filed, but Brown was not arrested, according to the Hollywood Police Department (Florida).
There's potential proof that Brown is being extorted
In a he-said, she-said battle, a third party has come forward with what may be potential proof that Brown is the victim of an attempted extortion of the part of Taylor, as first leaked by Twitter account "Incarcerated Bob."
Antonio Brown drama continues...
Exclusive IG convo between AB and unnamed female.
AB is saying a former trainer and her mom are extorting him for cash ???? he’s been complying according to his direct messages. #Raiders might know according to female in chat. pic.twitter.com/rm3OySh0L4
— IB ???? (@incarceratedbob) September 7, 2019
While Incarcerated Bob isn't exactly Schefter, the video of an Instagram private messaging conversation between Brown and a woman name 'Janet' appears be legit, and shows 'Janet' saying that she has audio that can prove that Taylor and her people are doing this to get money out of Brown, who just signed a one-year contract worth up to $15 million.
"I know about those rape claims she's making, it's all a lie I have her messages telling me she's just trying to get a bag. Hit me up," Janet's reply to Brown's Instagram story began. "I know about that girl making rape charges. Hit me up I have proof she's setting you up. She has audio you need to get it."
From there, Brown replied and seemed interested in whatever Janet had to help him.
Brown: It's crazy sad she trying to extort [me] after I have been nothing but generous.
Janet: Someone is coaching her behind the scenes.
Brown; Yes she got some people is [from] her church her and her mom in [deep] they [owe] taxes so now they scheming so sad after all I did was help her pay her to train me
Brown's claim regarding Taylor's family and tax situation is something that was mentioned in Heitner's statement, and seems to be the focal point in regards to the belief that Taylor's claims are part of an attempted "money grab."
Now, there are some strange elements of this conversation with "Janet."
There's the fact that she did not video chat with Brown because she was around other people, and that the information she has/had is on a backup phone at her boyfriend's place. She also seemed unsure who to trust in regards to this information that would help Brown, and also appeared to indicate that somebody within the Raiders organization was going to leak the information. While Janet's identity is currently unknown, it's fair to assume that if she's indeed telling the truth, it's somebody closer to Taylor or Taylor's camp given the fact they had such a recording and how protective they seemed to be of whatever it is they have to prove that Brown is indeed the victim of an attempted extortion.
But the most important detail of the video from Bob? The timestamp. He tweeted this video out at 2 a.m. on Sept. 7, actual days before word of the civil lawsuit came via the NYT. This person would have to be incredibly well-informed -- to a beyond personal degree, in fact -- if they were out here trying to simply trick Brown for the fun of it.
Alleged leaked messages appear to confirm some of Taylor's claims
While Brown may have potential proof of an extortion attempt thanks to "Janet," there seems to be an exchange that does confirm an allegation made by Taylor in her lawsuit, as these alleged emails from Brown would appear to feature Brown admitting to ejaculating on Taylor's back (the second incident of sexual assault mentioned in her lawsuit).
— Open Table Sports (@OpenTableSports) September 11, 2019
Brown, Patriots scheduled for Wednesday practice at Gillette Stadium
With a Sunday date against the Dolphins still on tap, the Patriots are scheduled to get back to work on the Gillette Stadium practice field later today. It was supposed to be Brown's first day of practice with the team, and it's unclear if that will still be the case given the news that's broken since Brown left the team facility on Tuesday afternoon.
Bill Belichick confirmed Brown would be at practice, but declined to comment further on the matter
Predictably, Patriots head coach dodged a number of questions on the sexual assault case involving Antonio Brown. He did, however, confirm that Brown would practice with the team on Wednesday. Brown was spotted wearing No. 1 on the practice field.
The NFL will consider placing Antonio Brown on the commissioner's exempt list
If placed on the exempt list, Brown would be barred from playing or practicing with the Patriots but could attend meetings and off-field workouts and receive medical treatment at team facilities. It would set a precedent that the league may want to avoid, since this is a civil lawsuit and the legal process has yet to play out.
Brown's contract includes a clause where the Patriots may have recourse to void his guarantees
Albert Breer of The MMQB posted a portion of Brown's contract that includes language relating to his guaranteed money. The Patriots may be able to void Brown's guarantees if he "takes any action that materially undermines the public's respect for, or is materially critical of" the Patriots or his teammates, coaches, management, or team policies.
This is a developing story, and 98.5 The Sports Hub will have any and all updates regarding the lawsuit...