New England Patriots release Antonio Brown, who faces rape allegation

(Reuters) – NFL star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has been accused of rape by his former personal trainer, was released on Friday by the New England Patriots, the team said less than two weeks after signing the prolific pass-catcher to a contract.

Brown, 31, has denied the sexual assault allegations lodged against him in a civil lawsuit last week.

The Patriots signed the four-time All-Pro player as a free agent on Sept. 9, just as the National Football League season was starting and soon after the Oakland Raiders, which had acquired Brown in the off-season, released him following a series of controversies. He played one game for the Patriots.

“The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown,” a spokesman for the defending Super Bowl champions 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 did not specify a reason for releasing Brown. But the decision followed the publication of a report by Sports Illustrated saying that Brown this week sent another woman who had accused him of making an unwanted sexual advance what she described as intimidating text messages.

The Patriots did not reveal terms of Brown’s contract, but multiple media reports said he had agreed to a one-year deal worth $15 million, including a $9 million signing bonus.

On Thursday, Nike Inc, the world’s largest sportswear maker, said it also had cut ties with Brown.

The wide receiver, who spent his previous nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said on Twitter on Friday: “Thank you for the opportunity @Patriots #GoWinIt.”

While his release from the Patriots threatens to end Brown’s career, he also said on Twitter, “The marathon continues.”

A spokesman for Brown could not be immediately reached for further comment.

The NFL issued a statement about the case saying they were investigating “multiple allegations, some of which are the subject of pending litigation.

“We have as yet made no findings regarding these issues,” the statement said. “The investigation is ongoing and will be pursued vigorously and expeditiously.

“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.”

Once the investigation is concluded, Brown may also be subject to discipline if it is found he has violated the law or league policies, the NFL said.

In a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida on Sept. 10, Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, said he raped her at his Miami home in May 2018 and forcibly kissed and sexually assaulted her at his Pittsburgh-area home in June 2017.

Brown’s lawyer, Darren Heitner, said in a statement last week that his client would pursue “all legal remedies to not only clear his name, but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.”

FILE PHOTO: Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) warms up prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

No criminal charges have been brought against Brown over the allegations.

Brown entered the NFL in 2010 and has logged 841 career receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns. In 2015, he led the league with a career-high 136 receptions.

Brown butted heads at times with teammates and management and orchestrating a trade to the Raiders earlier this year after falling out with the Steelers.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Frank Pingue in Toronto and Andrew Downie in London; Editing by Leslie Adler, Will Dunham and Tom Hogue

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