FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Antonio Brown was released by the New England Patriots on Friday after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct — 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.”
Already facing a civil suit claiming that he raped a former trainer, Brown was accused in a Sports Illustrated story published on Monday of exposing himself to an artist he hired to paint a mural at his home. He has denied both allegations.
But the Patriots cut ties with the four-time All-Pro after just one game.
The statement attributed to “a Patriots spokesperson” said, in its entirety: “The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown. 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.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady both avoided questions about Brown during their scheduled media availability Friday, a few hours before Brown was released. 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.
“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.”
The NFL said it will continue to investigate Brown’s behavior, as it has with stars like Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt and lesser players who have run afoul of the personal conduct policy — whether or not they were convicted of a crime, or even charged.
The league said in a statement late Friday that Brown 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.”
Brown has been sued by former trainer Britney Taylor, who claimed Brown raped or sexually assaulted her on three occasions. Although the lawsuit became public last week, Brown practiced with the Patriots, then played on Sunday in a 43-0 rout of Miami, scoring a touchdown.
Taylor had a lengthy meeting with the NFL this week.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, but Taylor was identified in the federal lawsuit and was quoted in a statement provided by her lawyer.
According to a Sports Illustrated story, a second woman, who as a victim of sexual harassment is not being identified, was working at Brown’s home when she turned around to find him standing there naked except for a small towel covering his genitals.
After the article ran, the magazine reported, the woman “received what she characterized as intimidating texts” from Brown that included pictures of her children.