The Antonio Brown storm intensified in Foxborough Friday as Patriots management confronted yet another provocative act by the team’s embattled new star receiver.
Coach Bill Belichick and the Kraft family continued to stand by Brown after news surfaced that the NFL — already investigating a civil rape allegation against him — is looking into disturbing texts that Brown allegedly sent another woman who accused him of making an unwanted sexual advance.
“We take all the situations with our team seriously,’’ Belichick said of Brown at his regularly scheduled news conference. “There are some things that we’re looking into, but I’m not going to have any comment on the off-the-field situations.’’
Belichick declined to discuss Brown’s anticipated role in Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium against the New York Jets, other than to say the receiver remains on the team’s roster. The coach parried seven questions about Brown over a minute and 40 seconds before he abruptly cut short the session.
Belichick’s sudden departure from the podium marked the second time that persistent questions about the Brown controversy prompted him to prematurely walk out of a news conference.
Lisa J. Banks, a lawyer for the woman involved in the latest incident, wrote to the NFL that her client, an artist, “is understandably frightened by these text messages, which are clearly intended to threaten and intimidate her . . . in violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy,’’ according to Sports Illustrated.
The magazine reported that the NFL swiftly responded to the complaint, and late Friday added that league officials told the artist’s legal team that the Patriots directed Brown to “have no further contact with our client, either directly or through his associates.”
Brown’s lawyer, Darren Heitner, had previously said the football star denied the artist’s claim of sexual misconduct. He has yet to respond to the development regarding the texts.
The artist, who asked not be identified, was commissioned by Brown in 2017 to paint a mural at his Pennsylvania home. She said she was kneeling while working on the mural when she turned to find Brown standing naked before her with a small hand towel over his genitals.
“She took it as a clear sexual come-on,’’ which she brushed off, effectively ending the mural project, Sports Illustrated reported.
The woman has not pursued legal action against Brown or sought any financial compensation. Yet Brown, according to texts published by the magazine, wrote to her, “Really sad you would make up bull [expletive] story to the world thought you had more integrity n respect for yourself must be really hard times for [you] to make up some stuff for money.’’
Brown also allegedly posted a picture of the artist’s children and wrote, “Those her kids . . . she’s awfully broke clearly.’’
In her letter to the NFL, the artist’s lawyer wrote, “While she certainly qualifies as a ‘starving artist,’ she has never approached Mr. Brown, nor will she, about seeking money to compensate her for his sexual misconduct, contrary to his allegations in the text messages.’’
Banks told Sports Illustrated, “This sort of intimidation and harassment is the reason victims are often reluctant to step forward in these cases. We have confidence the NFL and the Patriots will step in and end this behavior.’’
When the magazine requested a comment from Brown by texting his purported phone number, the reply was “foh clown.’’ “FOH’’ is considered shorthand for “get the [expletive] outta here.’’
Brown allegedly texted the artist late Wednesday, about 48 hours after NFL investigators spent hours interviewing his former trainer, Britney Taylor, who accused Brown in a federal civil suit of raping her in 2018 after sexually assaulting her in 2017 and 2018.
Brown has denied the charges, and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has described the lawsuit as “a money grab.’’
The controversy swirling around Brown has presented a public relations challenge for the Patriots, whose owner, Robert Kraft, and team president, Jonathan Kraft, have placed a high priority on protecting the image of their multibillion-dollar franchise.
Their spokesman said the Krafts have not spoken publicly about Brown because they are remaining consistent with their policy of not commenting on player acquisitions.
The team issued a statement after Taylor filed her civil lawsuit against Brown.
“We take these allegations very seriously,’’ the Patriots stated. “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.”
Brown spoke briefly to reporters Thursday, saying he was “super grateful’’ to be playing for the Patriots. When asked about the NFL’s investigation, he said, “I appreciate that question. I’m just here to just focus on ball.’’
The latest disclosure surfaced less than two weeks after the Patriots signed Brown to a $15 million contract, despite questions about his character at the end of his nine-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and his tumultuous preseason tenure with the Oakland Raiders.
Brown has yet to be interviewed by NFL investigators. Rosenhaus has said Brown “will cooperate with the Patriots, with the NFL, with any investigation.’’
Should the NFL find sufficient cause after its internal investigation to place Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, he would be paid but would not be eligible to play.
Since Taylor made her allegations, Brown has lost his shoe deal with Nike.
A four-time All-Pro, Brown caught four passes, including a 20-yard touchdown from Tom Brady, in his Patriots debut last Sunday, a 43-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Patriots receivers coach Joe Judge, speaking to reporters Friday, said Brown has “done a tremendous job’’ in his brief stint in Foxborough.
“Anything we ask him to do, he works very hard on,’’ Judge said. “He does a lot of work away from the building, studies hard, comes in fresh, prepared the next day. He’s been a pleasure to work with.’’
Judge further praised Brown, saying, “He’s a football guy all the way. If you’re talking ball with him, he loves it. He’s very engaged, he’s very energetic. He brings a great perspective to a lot of things we’ve done, from his experience elsewhere, and he’s been fun to work with and learn from.”
When Judge was asked whether it bothered him to coach a player who is facing such accusations, he referred reporters to Belichick.