Just when we thought the situation was settled after he signed with the New England Patriots, we were hit with the news of a lawsuit filed against NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown on Sept. 10.
The lawsuit filed by former collegiate gymnast Britney Taylor, who had acted as Brown’s trainer shortly after they met at Central Michigan University in 2010, states that she had been sexually assaulted by Brown on multiple occasions in 2017 and 2018.
It was upsetting to read the various news reports covering the lawsuit over the past few days, but the original document detailing the grievances against Brown was what really made my stomach turn. The 15-page lawsuit and the results from a polygraph test left no doubt in my mind that Taylor is telling the truth, thus making Brown guilty of these egregious actions.
I understand that Brown is officially innocent until proven guilty and the investigation headed by the NFL is still ongoing. What I don’t understand is how he was cleared to practice and play against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 15 in light of these accusations.
To me, the NFL is enabling Brown in the face of these allegations and endorsing him because he is a great athlete, which is very similar to the controversy surrounding the Brock Turner case in 2015.
For those who don’t recall, Turner was a highly regarded student-athlete at Stanford University when he sexually assaulted Chanel Miller behind a dumpster while she was intoxicated. While multiple rape charges were filed against him, amounting to a minimum of six years in prison, Turner ended up being charged to a mere six months in prison instead and only served about half the sentence before his release.
The leniency in Turner’s sentence was courtesy of Judge Aaron Persky, who happened to be a student-athlete during his time at Stanford as well. In the end, it felt as if Turner was merely given a slap on the wrist despite the severity of his crimes because of his privilege as an athlete and a white male.
The situation with Brown needs to be handled differently than Turner’s, especially with the emergence of a second woman, an artist who wished to remain nameless, who came forward with accusations against Brown on Sept. 16. The building frustration of Brown as information about his past continues to come to light has caused him to lose key endorsements with Xenith and Nike, a necessary step in curtailing this sort of behavior.
Brown’s threats sent to the second woman ended up being the last straw for the Patriots, as they released him on Sept. 20, marking the end of his brief career as a Patriot, and possibly as an NFL player.
As the messy situation with Brown has shown, the NFL cannot afford to tiptoe around this issue any longer. Often, fans criticize Roger Goodell and the NFL for having too tight a grip on players, but now is not the time for them to loosen it up.
The symbolism of Brown seemingly getting off easy despite the accusations against him is a dangerous display for the next generation of athletes. If young fans hear about Brown’s rape accusations and subsequently see him taking the field, how is that supposed to teach them differently?
Fortunately, Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization made the right call in releasing Brown, but Kraft doesn’t have the cleanest record himself. Kraft managed to virtually escape sanctions despite charges for soliciting prostitutes at a massage parlor earlier this year.
Even if he isn’t found guilty at the end of the investigation and never allowed to take the field for an NFL team again, Brown’s actions and the league’s failure to act are representative of the continuity of rape culture in our country and the lack of desire to positively reshape the future for many at the expense of a select few.