The New England Patriots have released receiver Antonio Brown after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct.
The team announced the move Friday in a statement emailed to reporters.
The statement said: “We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time.”
Brown has been accused of rape in a lawsuit by a former trainer. He is also accused of exposing himself to a painter he had hired. He has denied the allegations.
The Patriots signed Brown this month hours after he was released by Oakland. He was traded to the Raiders after wearing out his welcome with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a four-time All-Pro in nine seasons.
Belichick cut short his regular media availability Friday, a day after a second woman accused the receiver of sexual misconduct. The coach said the team is looking into “some things,” then refused to answer several more questions about Brown, saying, “I’m done with the rest of it.”
After another question about Brown, Belichick walked out .
Earlier Friday, Nike spokesman Josh Benedek confirmed that the company is no longer working with Brown, telling The Associated Press, “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete.” The move comes after Brown, who already faces a civil suit contending he raped a former trainer, was accused of exposing himself to a woman working on a mural at his Pittsburgh home.
Through his lawyer, Brown has denied the allegations. Asked if he expected Brown to play on Sunday against the New York Jets, Belichick said, “He’s on the roster.”
A person familiar with the investigation process told the AP that the league has not summoned Brown for a meeting, which would require a union representative to be present. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigative process is not made public.
In his first interview with reporters since agreeing to a one-year, $15 million deal with the Patriots on Sept. 7, Brown took only four questions on Thursday and declined to answer questions about the accusations. Sports Illustrated first reported on the second accuser, and Nike’s decision was first reported by the Boston Globe.
NFL spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.
Belichick took the unusual step on Friday of addressing a nonfootball situation before being asked.
“We take all the situations with our team very seriously,” he said. “There are some things we are looking into but I’m not going to have any comment on the off-the-field situations.”
But when more questions about Brown followed, the coach left.
According to the Sports Illustrated story, the painter “received a group text message that appeared to come from the same phone number Brown provided to her in 2017. The text chain, with four other phone numbers on it, included photos of her and her children, with the person she believes is Brown encouraging others in the group to investigate the woman. The texter accused the artist of fabricating her account of the 2017 incident for cash.”
Brown, a four-time All-Pro, caught 837 passes over nine seasons with Pittsburgh. But the Steelers tired of his antics and traded him to Oakland in March. He signed a deal with the Raiders that would have paid him up to $50 million, but he quarreled with management and never made it onto the field in the silver and black.
Just hours after requesting his release from the Raiders, the Patriots signed him.
Brown’s teammates said Friday they are trying to concentrate on the game, and Brown appeared to be doing the same.
“He seems pretty focused to me,” receiver Julian Edelman said. “He’s a professional. You don’t get to be a player like him by tiddlywinking around.”