When Antonio Brown agreed to a one-year contract with the Patriots a little more than 24 hours before the first Sunday of the NFL season, it was supposed to be the end of the soap opera. A drama-filled summer with the Raiders had culminated in his release; now, he was joining the league’s most successful franchise. The distractions were sure to fade away under Bill Belichick, and the legendary head coach was sure to dismiss any that didn’t. Tom Brady was “a million percent in” on Brown joining the team, and even offered to put the receiver up in his home while he looked for a new one, according to a story relayed by Sunday Night Football play-by-play man Al Michaels. Brown’s arrival in Foxboro was going to, finally, make it all about football again.
That illusion didn’t last long. Brown’s first full week as a Patriot included a civil lawsuit filed against him by former trainer Britney Taylor, who alleged that she was the victim of several instances of sexual assault by Brown, including one in which Brown “forcibly raped” her at his residence in 2018. Taylor’s accusations are the most serious to be levied against Brown, but, as Sports Illustrated has learned, they are far from the only ones.
SI conducted interviews with more than two dozen people who have employed, worked for, coached, or played alongside Brown—some who have taken legal action against him, and others who have not—and reviewed police and court documents from jurisdictions ranging from Miami to Pittsburgh to Oakland. In a half-dozen lawsuits, he is accused of refusal to pay wages to former assistants and part-time employees. Court documents and interviews also suggest a pattern of disturbing, sometimes bizarre behavior—including, SI has learned, a second woman’s allegations of sexual misconduct by Brown. Neither Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, nor his lawyer, Darren Heitner, responded to SI’s emailed list of questions, seeking Brown’s responses to each of the accusations within this story. (UPDATE: After this story published, Heitner tweeted that Brown had reviewed the new sexual misconduct allegations against him and “denies that he ever engaged in such activities.”)
In total, the stories of those who have encountered Brown paint a portrait of a superstar athlete living a rockstar lifestyle, of a man who rose from poverty and anonymity in Miami to stardom and wealth on a national stage, only to make a habit of insulting, attacking and betraying people he saw as being beneath his station.
In June 2017, Brown agreed to host a charity softball game in Pittsburgh to benefit the National Youth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based all-volunteer group of women that promotes inclusion and gender equality, as well as developing academic skills in kids. During an auction of artwork donated by regional artists, Brown noticed a portrait of himself as well as its artist, a woman in her late 20s in from out-of-state. She had resolved to keep her silence on the events that ensued. Through the foundation, Sports Illustrated contacted the artist, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about her dealings with Brown, which she has not previously revealed publicly.
According to one of the organization’s co-founders, Sophia Hanson, Brown liked the painting so much that he trumped the would-be winning bid of $450 with a $700 offer to buy it himself. Hanson says she took Brown at his word when he promised payment at a later date—after all, Brown has earned more than $69 million before taxes during his on-field NFL career, and that’s not including national endorsement deals with the likes of Pepsi, Nike, Microsoft and EA Sports.
Brown was so delighted with the portrait and the artist that he invited her to come to his home in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh to create another painting of him, this time a mural on a wall in his home. The artist says Brown agreed to a daily fee of $1,000 for her work and sent a van to transport her from New York City, along with some of his friends and associates, to western Pennsylvania.
After arriving at his home, the woman at first thought nothing of Brown’s flirtations—an uncomfortable yet constant reality of her professional life—and she was thrilled by his willingness to share her work on social media; he even posted a live video showcasing her progress. “It was very exciting, to have this person interested in my work,” the woman says. “He acted like he trusted me and he let me do my thing.”
On her second day, however, the atmosphere curdled. The artist says at one point she was in a kneeling position while painting and turned to find Brown behind her, naked, holding a small hand towel over his genitals. “He was flirty with me but I paid him no mind because I was there on business, plus, I had already seen him with multiple girls in the short time I was with him,” says the woman. “I was about 40% done on the second day, and I’m on my knees painting the bottom, and he walks up to me butt-ass naked, with a hand cloth covering his [penis] and starts having a conversation with me.” She took it as a clear sexual come-on. “Unfortunately, I’ve been tried [by men] a lot of times, so I just kept my cool and kept painting,” she says. “After that, it all ended abruptly.”
The next day, Brown told the woman he was heading to Miami. She still believed she’d finish the mural, which her small but growing social media following anxiously awaited, when Brown returned. But days turned into weeks with no contact from Brown. She’d brought another painting to his home, inspired by the concept of Dead Days—a term used in Cook County (Ill.) prisons to describe when prisoners spend more time incarcerated during pre-trial than their eventual sentences—and she hoped he’d share it on social media to raise awareness of the cause. That work was stranded in Brown’s house, she says, and it has not been returned. His various assistants, who had been warm to her for two days, no longer answered text messages. Brown paid her $2,000 for her days of work but otherwise “ghosted” her, she says.
The woman is not pursuing charges or remuneration, though she was bothered by his behavior. She said that friends with whom she had shared details of this incident alerted her to the federal lawsuit Taylor filed against Brown last week.
As for NYF, social media messages and emails sent to Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, by both the artist and Hanson requesting the $700 payment for the original auction painting, have gone unanswered, according to the artist and Hanson.
“We didn’t want to sue,” says Hanson, “because our mission is all about seeing the good in people and lifting people up. Part of me has to believe that at some point, one of these grown men are going to realize that they shouldn’t be stealing from a charity run by black women benefiting children. I have to believe that.”
Brown and Taylor, a former gymnast who now works as a trainer, met when they were both athletes at Central Michigan University. According to Taylor’s lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Florida on Sept. 10, Brown exposed himself and kissed her without her consent while Taylor was staying at his Pittsburgh-area home in June 2017. Later that month, while Taylor was staying at Brown’s house in Miami, Taylor was watching a church service on her iPad when, according to her Complaint, Brown “began masturbating near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back,” and later bragged about the incident in profane emails to Taylor. Taylor ended her working relationship with Brown but renewed it several months later after he contacted her to apologize and assured her he would “cease any sexual advances.”
On May 20, 2018, according to the lawsuit, Brown and Taylor were among a group of people who spent an evening socializing; at the end of the night, Taylor alleges, Brown “forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and forcibly raped her.”
According to a statement issued by Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, Brown “denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit.” Heitner’s statement claims Brown was asked by Taylor to invest $1.6 million in a business project, which the receiver refused to do after learning that she had been “levied with a $30,000 IRS tax lien,” and that Brown and Taylor were engaged in a “consensual personal relationship” and that any sexual interaction was consensual. According to an ESPN report five days after the lawsuit was filed, Brown was in settlement discussions with Taylor last spring but rejected a proposed $2 million settlement in exchange for agreeing not to sue.
Brown has had acrimonious relationships with several women in his life. Police were dispatched to his Pittsburgh-area home on domestic disturbance calls three times in the last four years. Each incident involved his longtime girlfriend Chelsie Kyriss, the mother of three of his five children; none resulted in an arrest. According to the police report of an August 2017 incident, Kyriss accused Brown of throwing a bottle of cologne and a bottle of lotion at her during an argument, then leaving for a preseason game. Officers observed no injuries to Kyriss, who, according to the report, was hesitant to pursue charges for fear of it affecting Brown’s career.
In May 2018, the most recent incident, Brown called police to his home claiming Kyriss took his credit card and a Range Rover—Kyriss was in the vehicle, with the credit card, when police arrived. Kyriss told police that Brown intended to fly to California without providing adequate funds for her to take care of their children while he was gone. Brown gave the officers $500 to give to Kyriss in exchange for the credit card. Kyriss claimed she needed $1,000, but Brown refused to give her any more money. Officers were unable to settle the dispute, which to their knowledge did not turn violent, and left after suggesting that Brown “attempt to speak with Kryiss or another mediator.”
According to a Hollywood (Fla.) Police Department report, on Jan. 18, Wiltrice Jackson, who had a daughter with Brown, and the receiver were involved in a domestic dispute. Jackson arrived at Brown’s Hollywood residence seeking reimbursement for their daughter’s hair appointment. A shouting match ensued as Brown refused to let her into his residence, and, per the report, Brown pushed her, causing her to fall backward. Jackson suffered a cut on her left forearm. The next day, Jackson arrived at the Hollywood Police Department to say she didn’t want to press charges, and none were ever filed. Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, released a statement claiming, in part, “The closed police report proves that Antonio Brown did absolutely nothing wrong.” Sports Illustrated was unable to reach Jackson through multiple phone numbers connected to her name.
Brown’s run-ins with police became stranger and more frequent over the past two years. In April 2018, Sunny Isles (Fla.) police were called to his residence on three consecutive days. On April 23 he called police to report that, upon returning from an 11-day trip, he discovered a handgun and a tote bag containing $80,000 had been stolen from a closet in his apartment. The next day police returned to the apartment after a call reporting that furniture was being thrown to the street from the 14th-floor balcony. Police reported Brown was “very agitated” and yelling that building security had set him up. According to lawsuits filed by the building’s landlord and the family of a 22-month-old boy who was nearly struck by furniture as he walked with his grandfather (which was settled for an undisclosed amount in April), Brown was throwing the items from the apartment in a fit of rage.
One day after that, Brown called police to report the theft of his Rolls-Royce. According to the report: “We [two police officers] knocked on the door several times before a male voice responded, “who is it?” I identified myself and a black male [later identified as Brown] opened the door. When I said hello, [Brown] said ‘I found the car’ and closed the door.”
In May 2018, on yet another visit by police to Brown’s 8,800-square foot home at the mouth of a quiet cul-de-sac in Gibsonia, Pa., Brown reported that a safe containing $50,000 in cash and jewelry valued at approximately $2 million had been stolen from his bedroom while he was away in Miami. Brown told police he had a suspect in mind: Sam Williams, a personal assistant whom Brown said was the only person with access to the home. Police say Williams passed a polygraph test, and their interviews with Williams and another person of interest in the case revealed that Williams was hardly the only person with access to the house. Williams, who told police he was owed back wages by Brown, surmised the accusation was an effort to do something he’d seen Brown do to others to whom he owed money. It was a “breakup” attempt, Williams guessed in his interview with police, intended to justify Brown not paying him.