Just a day after formally signing with the Patriots, the controversial and gifted receiver Antonio Brown was accused of raping his former trainer, who said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that he sexually assaulted her three times in the past two years.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Florida, alleges Brown sexually assaulted Britney Taylor, a gymnast he met while they were attending Central Michigan University together. Brown later hired Taylor as a trainer.
In her lawsuit, Taylor alleges that Brown sexually assaulted her twice during training sessions in June 2017.
Then, the lawsuit says, on May 20, 2018, Brown forced her onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and raped her. She tried to resist him, screaming and repeatedly shouting “no” and “stop,” the lawsuit says, but Brown refused.
Brown’s legal team released a statement denying the allegations.
“Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit,’’ read the statement from Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown. “He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name, but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.’’
The lawsuit adds to the legacy of Brown, who has had multiple run-ins with the law over the last few years and who was released by the Oakland Raiders after a brief, bizarre tenure.
In April 2018, while a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown was allegedly involved in an incident where he tossed furniture from the balcony of a 14-story apartment building in Florida, and was later part of a suit brought by the grandfather of a young child who was reportedly almost struck by the furniture. (That suit was settled by the two parties.) In January 2019, he was involved in a domestic disturbance in Hollywood, Fla., but wasn’t arrested.
More recently, in Oakland, his list of transgressions included a social media movie narrated by a private phone conversation with his coach, a reported on-field altercation with his general manager, and another social media post that featured a photo of private, internal correspondence from his team.
Warning: Some content and language in this lawsuit is graphic
The Patriots released a statement Tuesday night saying, “We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives. 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.”
In a statement released to The New York Times by her lawyer, Taylor said the decision to come forward was a challenge.
“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision,” she said. “I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault.”
According to the lawsuit, the two met in college as part of a Bible study group and became friends. They went their separate ways, it alleges, before they connected again in June 2017. Shortly after that, Brown hired Taylor as part of his physical training team.
In the suit, Taylor says she “never dated or had an interest in any romantic relationship with Brown.” The suit describes her as an elite-level gymnast who opened a gymnastics training center for girls in her hometown of Memphis.
“Brown preyed on Ms. Taylor’s kindness and her religious devotion, casting himself as a person equally dedicated to his religious faith and someone she could trust. In reality, he used manipulation and false promises to lure her into his world, and once there, he sexually assaulted and raped her,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says Brown bragged about the incident in text messages that are copied in the lawsuit.
There is no mention of criminal charges or a police investigation into the allegations in the lawsuit.
Heitner, Brown’s lawyer, said that Brown was approached by his accuser in 2017 and asked to invest $1.6 million in her business project.
“Mr. Brown was not informed by his accuser that she had just been levied with a $30,000 IRS tax lien or that $300,000 of the $1.6 million so-called ‘investment’ was to be used to purchase property already owned by the accuser and her mother,’’ Brown’s lawyer said. “When Mr. Brown refused to make the $1.6 million ‘investment,’ the accuser supposedly cut off communications with Mr. Brown.’’
However, Heitner said, she “resurfaced” in 2018 and offered to train Brown for the upcoming season.
“Thereafter, the accuser engaged Mr. Brown in a consensual personal relationship. Any sexual interaction with Mr. Brown was entirely consensual,’’ Heitner said in a statement.
Brown is scheduled to attend Patriots practice on Wednesday.
According to an NFL Media report, Brown’s deal includes a $1 million fully guaranteed base, a $9 million signing bonus ($5 million immediately, $4 million later), and other incentives.
Brown had 104 catches, 1,297 yards, and a league-high 15 receiving touchdowns last season. He is a four-time first-team All-Pro.
For the Patriots, the lawsuit will force the team to confront a decision of how to handle the allegations.
When New England acquired defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in the summer of 2011, he was facing a sexual assault charge following an alleged incident that February. Haynesworth later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge, and played a portion of that season before he was released by the team.