FOXBOROUGH — Antonio Brown’s short and tumultuous tenure with the Patriots ended Friday afternoon, with the Patriots releasing the wide receiver after a string of allegations including rape, sexual assault, and harassment emerged in his two weeks with the team.
Brown’s release came less than 24 hours after Sports Illustrated reported that Brown had sent intimidating text messages to a female artist who had accused him, in an article that was published earlier this week, of unwanted sexual advances. Brown reportedly sent the text messages Wednesday night.
Brown, 31, also was accused of rape and sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed in Florida just days after he agreed to terms with the Patriots on Sept. 7.
His release came three days before the Patriots were due to pay him $5 million of his $9 million signing bonus.
“The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown,” the team 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 were under constant scrutiny from fans and media during the two weeks for employing Brown and tolerating his behavior. The Patriots added Brown just seven months after owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting a prostitute in Florida.
At his Friday morning news conference, when asked if he expected to have Brown available to play Sunday against the New York Jets, Patriots coach Bill Belichick answered, “He’s on our roster.” Belichick walked off the podium after fielding questions about Brown for less than two minutes.
“We take all the situations with our team seriously,’’ Belichick said in his opening statement. “There are some things that we’re looking into, but I’m not going to have any comment on the off-the-field situations.’’
But the Patriots decided by Friday afternoon that they no longer wanted to deal with Brown’s baggage.
“It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out with the Patriots,” said Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus. “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.”
Lisa J. Banks, a lawyer for the artist (who has asked not be identified), had written to the NFL that her client was “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 arranged for league investigators to contact the artist’s legal team.
Brown’s lawyer, Darren Heitner, had previously said that Brown denied the artist’s claim of sexual misconduct.
Following Brown’s release, Debra Katz, another lawyer for the artist, said, “The NFL acted promptly and they expressed serious concern about what happened with our client and wanted to get with her to ensure that she felt safe and they offered various services to ensure that she would be safe.
“They behaved as we would want any institution to behave and the NFL has not always done that. They did the right thing here.
“And I think it’s important because it sends a message to other people who are victimized by harassment or intimidation by NFL players that the personal code will be something that the NFL can use to police the off-field behaviors of players.”
The artist 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.
The woman has not pursued legal action against Brown or sought any financial compensation.
Brown agreed on a one-year deal with the Patriots Sept. 7 with $10 million guaranteed, the same day he was released by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team. But trouble followed him to New England.
On Sept. 10, Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, accused him of rape and sexual assault in a civil lawsuit in Florida, which prompted an NFL investigation.
A league spokesman confirmed that the investigation will continue even though Brown is not employed by a team.
The Patriots stood by Brown after the lawsuit was filed, allowing him to play in Sunday’s 43-0 win over the Dolphins; the NFL, of course, allowed Brown to play, as well. Brown led the Patriots with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in that game.
The Patriots stood by Brown earlier this week when the Sports Illustrated article detailed a new sexual harassment allegation. And the Patriots allowed Brown to practice Friday afternoon with the team.
Before being released, Brown seemed to be fitting in well with the Patriots.
“He’s been a pleasure to work with,” receivers coach Joe Judge said Friday morning. “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.”
Brown thanked Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots on his social media accounts.
“Love ya champ that was fun! #GoWinIt #DoItForMe”
Brown has played in seven Pro Bowls in nine seasons and twice led the NFL in yards and receptions, but the Patriots are now the third team to dump him this year because of his behavior, joining the Raiders and Steelers.
Friday’s release also sets up a potential battle between the Patriots and Brown over his $10 million in guarantees. The Patriots agreed to a $9 million signing bonus, which was split into two payments — $5 million on Sept. 23, and $4 million on Jan. 15. Brown’s $1 million base salary was also fully guaranteed.
If the Patriots withhold payments, Brown’s representation can file a grievance or take legal action. In all likelihood, the Patriots would argue that Brown’s conduct violated his contract, while Brown would argue that he is not under criminal investigation and wasn’t placed on a suspended or commissioner’s exempt list.
Brown’s behavior has cost him a lot of money this year. He was set to make $15.1 million from the Steelers, but they traded him to the Raiders. Brown was then set to make $30 million guaranteed over the next two years, but his erratic behavior gave the Raiders recourse to void his guarantees, and they released him.
Brown then signed with New England, and would have made $10 million-$15 million this year based on incentives. Instead, he walks away with just $158,333 — two game checks of $62,500, and a roster bonus of $33,333.
The Patriots will still carry a $5.75 million salary cap hit for him this year, and a $4.75 million hit next year. If the Patriots win a grievance against Brown, they would receive a salary cap credit in 2020.