Star NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown, the newly signed New England Patriot who was released by Oakland after weeks of turmoil and bizarre behavior, was accused of rape Tuesday in a Miami lawsuit filed by his former personal trainer.
The woman alleged that Brown, a South Florida resident, sexually assaulted her three separate times in 2017 and 2018. The lawsuit claims that two of the incidents happened in Miami: once in 2017, when he ejaculated on her back as they watched a video program at his home, and another time in May 2018, when he allegedly raped her inside his Miami home after a night out at a club. The other incident happened in Pittsburgh, the suit says.
It was unclear if the woman reported any of the incidents to police.
As the news broke on Tuesday night, Brown’s attorney took to Twitter to defend the player, saying the two had consensual sexual relations. He also depicted the woman as having tried to pressure Brown into giving her a $1.6 million “investment” for a business project, and using social media to “financially benefit from his celebrity.
“Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit,” lawyer Darren Heitner said in a statement. “He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Miami, was but the latest twist in the saga of Brown, 31, who was born and raised in Miami-Dade County. He attended Miami Norland High, but despite incredible speed, he was undersized and drew little attention from big-time colleges.
After a just one year at prep school, Brown walked on at Central Michigan University, a mid-tier school with a middling program where he ultimately met his accuser. The two met in 2010, when she was a freshman. The woman was a gymnast and was paired with Brown as a Bible study partner in the college’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, the suit says.
Brown excelled in college, earning All-American honors twice. The Steelers drafted him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. That’s when his profile exploded.
Over the next decade, he became one of the NFL’s most recognizable players. Brown was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a four-time All-Pro and led the NFL in receptions in 2018. But controversy was never far away.
His oversized, and often difficult, personality clashed with his coach Mike Tomlin and Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers traded him to the Raiders in March.
That marriage was doomed from the start. A cryotherapy session-gone-awry caused him to miss much of camp with frostbitten feet, and then Brown threatened to retire because the NFL had banned his helmet of choice.
It all came to a head last week, when he forced his way out for a second time in a year with erratic behavior, capped by a contentious exchange with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock. The Raiders cut him on Saturday, and a few hours later, Brown had an agreement to sign with the defending NFL champion New England Patriots — many suspect that was his preferred destination all along.
His first practice with the Patriots is slated for Wednesday.
“We think he’ll help our team, but until we start working with him – part of that is actually having a hands-on opportunity to work with a player and see exactly how everything fits together and what we can develop,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters Tuesday. We’ll just have to see how that goes.”
The Patriots visit Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, and are heavy favorites to trounce the Dolphins. Until then, the newly filed federal lawsuit will likely consume the sports news cycle.
The woman is a 28-year-old gymnast from Tennessee, according to the 15-page federal lawsuit filed by lawyers David Haas, Jonathan Abady and Marshelle Brooks. The Miami Herald is not naming the woman because she says she was the victim of sexual assault.
According to the suit, the two lost contact after college, but eventually reconnected in June 2017, when Brown said he needed “help improving flexibility and strength in his ankles,” according to the suit.
The two worked out a deal for her to train him in Pittsburgh and Florida. The lawsuit claims the first incident happened during a training trip in June of that year, when Brown exposed his penis to her and tried to kiss her.
She brushed it off, but later that month, Brown “began masturbating behind her” as they watched a church service on an iPad at his home, the suit said. Shortly after that incident, Brown fired her via text. The lawsuit also includes graphic texts about the incident, allegedly sent by Brown.
In 2018, the woman began training Brown again after he apologized and agreed to stop flirting with her.
Around May 2018, the woman claims, she went out with Brown, another football player and some friends to a club in Miami. Afterward, she was headed to the airport and dropped off Brown, running in to use the restroom, her lawyers said.
That’s when Brown forced her into his bedroom and raped her, according to the suit.
But Brown’s lawyer says the encounter was consensual, and the accused “solicited Mr. Brown to join her.” His lawyer, in his statement, called the lawsuit nothing more than a “money grab” and said the woman kept in contact with the player for months afterward, even asking for tickets to Steelers’ games.
The woman claims she fell into a “into a deep depression” and was having “near-daily panic attacks, frequent suicidal ideations and insomnia.” She says she did not come forward until seeking guidance from a church leader who was a former sex-crimes prosecutor.