Millions of fans watching the Patriots vs. Dolphins game Sunday will undoubtedly be scanning for one player: Antonio Brown.
It’s not clear whether the star wide receiver, who signed with the New England Patriots just eight days ago, will take the field after his former Bible study partner and physical trainer accused him of rape and sexual assault.
Brown has denied the allegations.
In a news conference Wednesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t confirm whether Brown would play Sunday. The game is at 1 pm ET in Miami.
“We are taking it one day at a time, just like we always do,” Belichick said.
What Brown and his accuser say
Brown’s former personal trainer Britney Taylor filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday claiming Brown sexually assaulted her multiple times.
The lawsuit says Taylor, a former gymnast, and Brown met in 2010 when they were paired as Bible study partners at the Central Michigan University chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Taylor says Brown reached out to her on social media around 2013 to ask for photos of her. When she sent a photo of her face, the lawsuit says, he asked for something more revealing and she refused.
In 2017, Brown said he wanted Taylor to train him to improve his flexibility and ankle strength, the suit says.
Taylor said Brown sexually assaulted her twice in June 2017 and raped her in May 2018.
Brown’s attorney said his client vehemently denies the allegations and believes Taylor is after his money.
“Mr. Brown, whose hard work and dedication to his craft has allowed him to rise to the top of his profession, refuses to be the victim of what he believes to be a money grab,” attorney Darren Heitner said in a statement.
Why Brown might not play
There are multiple reasons why Brown might not play Sunday, and they’re not all related to the sexual assault allegations.
Brown could sit if the Patriots don’t think he’s ready after only a few practices with the team.
He signed with the Patriots last weekend, just hours after he was released by the Oakland Raiders following a dramatic falling out with that team.
While no criminal charges have been filed, the NFL is considering putting Brown on its commissioner’s exempt list following the sexual assault allegations, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.
A player placed on the exempt list can’t practice or attend games while the league conducts a review.
The NFL adopted a much stricter policy against off-the-field violence after a 2014 incident involving Ray Rice, a running back with the Baltimore Ravens, who was caught on a security camera punching his fiancée. The episode sparked widespread outrage.
The NFL’s new policy calls for an independent investigation and adjudication in abuse cases, separate from law enforcement.
The league hired veteran prosecutors and investigators to see whether accused players should face discipline, even if no criminal charges are filed.