The New England Patriots were not aware of the sexual assault and rape allegations levied against Antonio Brown when they signed the wide receiver on Monday, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Schefter, citing sources, reported the Patriots were “caught by surprise” when news of a civil lawsuit filed against Brown broke Tuesday night.
“The team will have to decide how to proceed with Brown, who was scheduled for his first practice with New England on Wednesday,” Schefter wrote. “One possibility is that Roger Goodell will place Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, sources said, which would mean Brown will not be counted on the Patriots’ active list while the league investigates the allegations.”
A Patriots spokesperson also told The New York Times, which first reported news of the lawsuit, that that “the team had not heard about the lawsuit or any related allegations.”
In the suit, Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, accused the receiver of sexually assaulting her on three occasions in 2017 and 2018. Brown denied the allegations through his attorney, Darren Heitner, who announced plans to file a countersuit.
Whispers of allegations against Brown circulated on social media over the weekend, before he was released by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday. Shortly after his release, the 31-year-old agreed to terms on a one-year, $15 million contract with the Patriots that included a $9 million signing bonus.
UPDATE (11:55 p.m. ET): The Patriots released the following statement:
“We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives. We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.”