FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Antonio Brown was released by the Patriots on Friday after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct and of sending her an intimidating text message. New England is the third team in seven months to tire of the off-field behavior 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 #GoWinIt.”
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 Jets, Belichick said, “He’s on the roster.”
About five hours later, he wasn’t.
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 on Wednesday “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 the 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 behavior.”
The league said in a statement late Friday that it would continue to investigate Brown and he could be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list if he is signed by another team and could also be suspended once the investigation concludes, casting doubt on whether he will play again this season.
“We have as yet made no findings regarding these issues,” the statement said. “Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he may also be subject to discipline if the investigation finds that he has violated the law or league policies.”
Earlier this week, Nike cut ties with the receiver, saying in an email, “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete.”
“It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out with the Patriots,” Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus tweeted. “But Antonio is healthy and is looking forward to his next opportunity in the NFL. He wants to play the game he loves and he hopes to play for another team soon.”
Brown has been sued by a former trainer Britney Taylor, who claimed Brown sexually assaulted her on three occasions, including rape. The allegations became public last week, then Brown played Sunday in a 43-0 rout of Miami, scoring a touchdown.
Taylor had a lengthy meeting with the NFL this week.
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 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.