Troubled NFL free agent Antonio Brown has been suspended for the first eight games of the 2020 season without pay for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy.
The league did not specify the violations he’s being suspended for, but there are several possibilities.
Brown, 32, is currently facing a lawsuit from his former personal trainer, Britney Taylor, who claims he raped and sexual assaulted her over three incidents in 2017 and 2018. Another woman claimed he sexually harassed her while she painted a mural in his Pennsylvania home in 2017, and later revealed menacing text messages Brown sent in an apparent attempt to silence her.
In June, Brown pleaded no contest to an assault charge stemming from an incident with a moving truck driver. He was placed on two years probation and also ordered to have a psychological evaluation and enroll in a 13-week anger management course.
Brown had recently threatened to retire, but had not followed through with the requisite paperwork.
According to the league press release, Brown is free to sign with any team and participate in all preseason activities. His suspension wouldn’t take effect until rosters are finalized on September 5, and he would only be permitted to return after the eighth game.
The NFL also directed Brown to continue his treatment and counseling programs, and notified him that he is expected to fully cooperate with his clinicians.
Brown has never been convicted or even charged as a result of any sexual misconduct allegation and has maintained his innocence. However, the NFL does not need a conviction in order to punish players for conduct violations.
A suspension had been looming over the four-time All-Pro for some time, and he recently demanded that the league resolve the issue so that he could resume his career.
‘@nfl I have complied with each and every ask of your investigations throughout the past 11 months,’ he wrote on Instagram, referring to the league investigation into his conduct. ‘You have had access to all of my phones, you know what the deal is in each and every situation that the media has distorted.
‘I have been seeing the therapist you asked me to, I have worked on all aspects of my life this past year and have become a better man because of it. The fact that you refuse to provide a deadline and the reason for the fact you won’t resolve your investigations is completely unacceptable.
‘I demand you provide me clarity on this situation immediately if you really care about my wellbeing. My legal team continues to ask and you provide no answers. How is it that the league can just drag it’s (sic) feet on any investigation it chooses on players and we just have to sit there in limbo? Need an update so I can talk to these teams properly, they’re waiting on you @nfl let’s get this thing moving! We’ve got history to make!! #Himmothy.’
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has severed ties with the receiver, telling the NFL Players Association that he refused to work with him until he sought professional help.
Likewise, attorney Darren Heitner confirmed to the Daily Mail that he removed himself as counsel for Brown in a lawsuit alleging the former Steelers star caused significant damages to an apartment he was renting in Florida.
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection in Pittsburgh, Brown was traded after the 2018 season to the Oakland Raiders, who made him the highest-paid receiver in football with a three-year, $50 million extension.
But as training camp began in August, Brown, who had fallen out of favor in Pittsburgh, began making enemies in Oakland.
First he missed time while dealing with blistering feet as a result of a frostbite mishap during cryogenic therapy.
Then there was the prolonged dispute with the league over Brown’s helmet, which was no longer approved by the NFL because it was over 10-years old.
After losing a pair of grievances, Brown settled on a model made by Xenith, and announced the decision on Instagram, with the words: ‘Helmet drama over.’
Less than a day later, that drama resurfaced when Brown allegedly confronted general manager Mike Mayock, who fined him $53,000 for the practices he missed.
Brown then apologized to teammates for his outburst, in which he reportedly called Mayock a ‘cracker’ and needed to be restrained, according to ESPN.
Things appeared to be back on track after the apology until Brown learned that the Raiders had voided $30 million in guarantees on his contract, prompting him to lash out on social media.
Brown demanded his release, which Mayock granted, and within a day he had agreed to a one-year, $15 million deal with the New England Patriots.
After one game in New England, Brown’s former personal trainer, Britney Taylor, sued him in federal court, claiming he raped her and sexually assaulted her twice in 2017 and 2018. She has since refiled the lawsuit in Florida.
It remains unclear if the Patriots were aware of the allegations against Brown at the time of his signing, although Rosenhaus did tell ESPN that he and his client knew there was a possibility of a lawsuit.
Another woman has since anonymously accused Brown of sexual harassment, telling Sports Illustrated that he hired her in 2017 to paint a mural at his Pennsylvania home, where he disrobed and approached her wearing only a hand towel over his genitals.
In response to that story, Brown sent menacing text messages to the unidentified woman, accusing her of making up the allegation and threatening to look into her past.
She then shared those texts with Sports Illustrated.
Brown was cut by the Patriots on September 20, shortly after the text messages to his anonymous accuser were reported. The team never gave an official reason for his release.
The unidentified woman has not filed any lawsuit or pressed criminal charges against Brown.
Since then, Brown has alternately declared he was done with football before expressing his desire to return to the NFL.
Rosenhaus previously stated that teams have expressed interest in Brown, pending the findings of the NFL’s investigation into Taylor’s claims, and the receiver recently had a workout with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.