Here's what to know about the New England Patriots wide receiver's controversial background
As controversial as he is successful, Antonio Brown has been making headlines for his behavior long before he was accused of raping his former trainer in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
It’s been a week of ups and downs for Brown, 31, as the allegations, obtained by The New York Times, came just shortly after it was announced that the wide receiver had been signed to the New England Patriots on a one-year contract, worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus.
In the civil lawsuit, his accuser, who identifies herself as Britney Taylor, reportedly claims that Brown sexually assaulted her twice during training sessions in June 2017; exposing himself and kissing her without permission the first time, and masturbating behind her and ejaculating on her back the second.
Taylor also accused Brown of raping her in May 2018. The Times, citing the lawsuit, reported that Brown allegedly apologized to Taylor after gloating over the first two incidents in messages to her.
Brown’s attorney Darren Heitner released a statement denying “each and every allegation,” and said Brown would “pursue all legal remedies” to clear his name and “protect other professional athletes against false accusations.”
Here’s what to know about the athlete.
How’d he get to the Patriots?
After playing college football for Central Michigan, Brown was drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and went on to play with the team for eight seasons.
Though the Steelers signed Brown to a five-year deal in 2017 — which made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL — tensions reached a head by the end of the 2018 season following a reported dispute with teammate Ben Roethlisberger.
Brown did not play in the Steelers’ season-ending game in December 2018 after having skipped practices for the entire week leading up to it, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in March, though he never played in a single game for the team, and his brief stint was mired in controversy.
After missing a series of practices during the offseason, and skipping preseason training camp, Brown was hit with two fines totaling $53,950 from Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock on Sept. 4.
The athlete did not take kindly to the discipline, and shared a picture of the letter from Mayock to his Instagram Story, writing, “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”
Two days after the post, he shared a YouTube video that featured a recorded phone conversation he’d had with head coach Jon Gruden, in which Gruden asked Brown, “What the hell is going on?”
In a note accompanying the video, Brown said he wanted to “control [his] own narrative,” and seemingly asked the Raiders to “Free me!”
Brown was fined $215,073.53 one day later for conduct detrimental to the team, which voided the $29.125 million worth of guaranteed money in his deal, ESPN reported.
On Saturday, he was finally released by the team — and shortly after, Brown announced on Twitter he’d signed with the Patriots.
The helmet issue
Much of Brown’s dramatic summer with the Raiders revolved around his fight to continue playing in a decade-old helmet that no longer met NFL standards.
He had been ordered by the NFL to get rid of his Schutt Air Advantage helmet, which he has worn for his entire career, as part of new safety rules introduced in 2017 that required players to wear one of a slate of new and approved helmet models.
ESPN reported in August that Brown threatened to retire if he wasn’t allowed to wear his preferred helmet. He even filed two grievances against the NFL over the headgear, both of which were denied.
He eventually settled on a Xenith Shadow helmet in early September.
Burning bridges — and feet
As if the helmet drama wasn’t enough, one of the main reasons Brown missed preseason training camp with the Raiders was even stranger: frostbitten feet.
The athlete made headlines in late July and early August after he entered a cryotherapy chamber in France without the appropriate footwear, subsequently burning his feet and giving himself severe frostbite.
He showed off the blistered damage on an episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, telling the program he hoped his feet would be “born again” and he could “run faster.”
His fines from the Raiders weren’t the only tab Brown has rung up during his years playing football.
While still with the Steelers, Brown was fined at least three times for twerking as a touchdown celebration, with his fines totaling more than $60,000.
He later showed off his moves on a much more acceptable platform: Dancing With the Stars, where he placed fourth on season 22 in 2016.
Brown appeared on reality TV once again in January on The Masked Singer, though he was eliminated on night one after singing “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown.