NFL star Antonio Brown accused of raping former trainer in lawsuit


New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the NFL’s biggest stars, has been accused of raping a woman who formerly worked as his physical trainer, according to a federal lawsuit.

The civil complaint filed on Tuesday in US district court for the southern district of Florida alleges Brown sexually assaulted Britney Taylor, a gymnast he met while they attended Central Michigan University together.

The lawsuit, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, accuses Brown of assaulting Taylor on three separate occasions, twice in June 2017 and a third in May 2018, saying he “preyed on [her] kindness and her religious devotion, casting himself as a person equally dedicated to his religious faith and someone she could trust”.

Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, said in a statement issued Tuesday night the receiver “denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit” and that he and Taylor were involved in an “entirely consensual” personal relationship, describing the allegations as a “money grab”.

Heitner said they will pursue “all legal remedies to not only clear [Brown’s] name, but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations”, and later added the wide receiver “will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including exercising all of his rights in countersuits”.

Taylor, an elite-level gymnast from Memphis, first met Brown when they were paired as bible-study partners in their university’s Fellowship for Christian Athletes group in 2010, the complaint says, falling out of touch for several years before reconnecting on Facebook in 2017, when Brown hired her to help improve the flexibility and strength in his ankles and fast-twitch muscles. Their arrangement involved Taylor flying to Brown’s homes in Pittsburgh and Miami where he lived and trained during the offseason, the suit says.

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The complaint alleges the first incident took place in June 2017, when Brown exposed his penis to Taylor and kissed her without consent during a training session at one of his homes in the Pittsburgh area. Taylor, who had a long-term boyfriend, was made to feel “extremely uncomfortable” by Brown’s approach but “willed herself to brush off the episode” in an effort to preserve the professional relationship, according to the suit.

The second happened later that month, during a training visit at Brown’s residence in Miami, when he allegedly masturbated without her knowledge as they watched a church service on Taylor’s iPad and ejaculated on her back, later bragging about it in a series of “astonishingly profane and angry text messages”, according to court documents.

The suit says Taylor then ended her working relationship with Brown only to reconcile several months later, when she was “swayed by his assurance that he would cease any sexual advances” and agreed to provide hotel accommodations for future training visits.

The third assault allegedly took place on 20 May 2018, when Brown “forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and forcibly raped her”, according to the complaint. Taylor attempted to resist him, screaming and repeatedly shouting “no” and “stop”, the lawsuit says, but Brown refused and “proceeded with great violence to penetrate her”.

The alleged incidents have left Taylor, 28, suffering “near-daily panic attacks and suicidal ideations”, according to the suit. She is seeking in excess of $75,000 for claims of sexual battery, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and invasion of privacy for unwanted and offensive sexual contact.

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“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision,” Taylor said in a statement provided by her attorney. “I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault.”

A spokesperson for the Patriots issued a statement to the Guardian on Tuesday night saying the team is “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,” the statement continued. “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.”

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Brown, 31, who became one of football’s most prolific offensive players over nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was traded to Oakland in March but signed a contract with New England on Monday following a tumultuous offseason that culminated with his release from the Raiders, and the forfeiture of more than $29m in guaranteed money, without having played a single game for the team. The veteran wideout recorded 686 catches and 9,145 receiving yards over the past six seasons with the Steelers, the highest totals for a receiver over a six-year span in NFL history.

It’s unclear how the civil suit will impact Brown’s playing status only one day after he officially joined the Patriots. The Miami native, who was expected to practice with the defending Super Bowl champions for the first time on Wednesday before possibly debuting in Sunday’s game with the Dolphins, could be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, which means he would not be counted on the Patriots’ active roster while the league investigates the allegations, ESPN reported on Tuesday.

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