The Patriots did not know wide receiver Antonio Brown could be facing a lawsuit for sexual assault when they signed him last week, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports.
Britney Taylor, Brown's former trainer, accused him of sexual assault and rape in a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday.
According to Fowler, representatives for Taylor and Brown were in discussions for months and agreed to keep their communication confidential until Taylor's civil sexual assault lawsuit was filed. Sources told Fowler that the Patriots and Raiders, who released Brown last week, would not have known about it unless someone breached their decision to remain quiet.
According to the lawsuit, Brown allegedly sexually assaulted and raped Taylor, a gymnast he met while attending Central Michigan and later hired as his trainer, in three separate incidents. The lawsuit said Brown sexually assaulted Taylor twice during training sessions in June 2017, exposing himself and kissing her without consent in the first incident. Later that month, Brown "began masturbating near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back" and then bragged about the incident in profane emails attached to the lawsuit. Taylor then ended her working relationship with Brown following the alleged assaults only to relent several months later after he contacted her to apologize and assured her he would "cease any sexual advances."
Brown's attorney, Darren Heitner, released a statement saying Brown denies the allegations and asserts any sexual interaction with his former trainer was "entirely consensual." The Patriots also released a statement on Tuesday saying they were aware of the lawsuit filed earlier that day and they "take these allegations very seriously."
On Wednesday, Brown practiced with the Patriots amid the allegations, and coach Bill Belichick told reporters the team is managing the situation "one day at a time."
Taylor is reportedly willing and planning to meet with the NFL next week as they investigate the allegations. Brown is expected to meet with the league as well, and the NFL has the option to place him on the commissioner's exempt list.
New England signed Brown to a one-year deal worth $15 million on Sept. 7 after his release from the Raiders earlier that day. His departure in Oakland came after a series of incidents this summer. The four-time All-Pro asked for his release after the Raiders voided $29.125 million in contract guarantees due to conduct detrimental to the team.