The New England Patriots released mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown on Friday, 11 days after they signed him. The team stated: “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”. This move was building up for some time.
Brown is currently involved in multiple allegations regarding sexual misconduct against his former trainer, Britney Taylor, and a female artist who worked out of his Western Pennsylvania home back in 2017. He recently sent text messages to a woman who claimed his sexual harassment; these messages reportedly included a picture of the woman’s children, which lawyers referred to as “intimidating”. Prior to the text messages, all his issues were before his tenure with the Patriots. However, he sent these messages while he was a member of the team.
Taylor met with the NFL on Monday, and a source informed ESPN there are “more interviews and information-gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.” It remains to be seen if Brown will interview with the league; what is clear is that Brown is now an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team.
The Patriots clearly felt Brown had crossed a line. They operate as one of the most professional, tight-lipped organizations in football. With head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft running the show, very little noise comes in or out of Foxborough.
This move was risky from the beginning; the Patriots had some idea of what they were getting into when they signed Brown. As the Patriots are not accustomed to signing mercurial players, this release, while somewhat surprising, fits along the lines of how the Patriots wish to run their enterprise. Fans who longed for a remix of the Patriots’ historic 2007 undefeated season, when they set records across the board, will hope that happens even without Brown on board.
The question remains: What happens next to Antonio Brown? This is quite an unprecedented fall from grace. As recently as a year ago, Brown was regarded as one of the top receivers in football, and he was in the midst of a Hall of Fame career. Now, in the span of six months, he’s gone from legend to malcontent, alienating three separate franchises and potentially putting an early end to his career.
He could theoretically sign with another team, yet there’s a good chance his 2019 season might very well be over. Most teams wouldn’t want to deal with all these allegations, not to mention Brown’s own behavior over the summer. It remains a possibility he plays again, but from what we’ve seen, his career could very well be over.