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Can "The Patriot Way" save AB

9-17-2019

David Skarupski, Sports Editor

Amid an expired settlement agreement and sexual assault allegations, Antonio Brown officially registered his first game as a New England Patriot on Sunday.

Brown kicked off his on-field reign as a Patriot in formidable fashion during a 43-0 beatdown of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, leading the team with four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.  

For most players in the NFL, this would be the main talking-point for the week, leaving the media with the duty of turning analytics and practice notes into news to fill the headlines. Brown is not most players. Unfortunately for the Patriots and himself, the news surrounding him isn’t currently based around selfish jabs at team personnel, childish antics, or outlandish brand-building efforts. Rather, the news is based on the alleged sexual assault and rape of his former trainer, Britney Taylor.

The allegations surfaced on Sept. 9, as Taylor filed a civil lawsuit in Florida claiming that Brown sexually assaulted her twice in 2017 and raped her in May 2018. Taylor, who did not file criminal charges, sought $2 million in damages in a lawsuit that had been open since April 2019. The lawsuit claims that in 2017 Brown exposed himself and kissed Taylor without consent, before engaging in more lewd and unwanted acts later that month, according to an article by Alaa Abdeldaim for Sports Illustrated. The lawsuit also claims that on May 20, 2018, Brown “forced [Taylor] onto a bed, pushed her face in the mattress, and forcibly raped her.”

Brown has vehemently denied the charges since they have been brought against him, claiming in a statement released by his lawyer, Darren Heitner, that “any sexual interaction with Mr. Brown was entirely consensual” and that “the accuser not only traveled to Mr. Brown’s residences on multiple occasions, she traveled from Tennessee to Florida at 2 a.m.  to Mr. Brown’s residence ten days after the alleged assault.”

The incident will be resolved in court, as Brown refused to reach a settlement agreement with Taylor by the Sept. 9 deadline, according to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.

With the seriousness of the allegations by Taylor, the real question in the realms of the NFL is whether the Patriots and Brown can weather this storm on the field. Brown may face hefty penalties from the league even if he is not charged criminally or is exonerated from Taylor’s civil suit, as claims regarding intersex abuse have been a hot-button issue for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL in recent years. The league is often heavy-handed and stern when it comes to claims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, and there is a chance that when Taylor walks out of her meeting with NFL officials Monday, Brown will be walking onto the Commissioner’s exempt list, which would result in an immediate and indefinite suspension for the star receiver.

The Patriots are no strangers to controversy, as is highlighted by wide receiver Josh Gordon’s difficulties with substance abuse, 2007’s Spygate controversy and Tom Brady’s Deflategate incident stemming from the 2014-15 AFC Championship. But the team hasn’t had such little control, or handled such serious allegations brought against a star player, since their late tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged, and later convicted, of the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Unlike his issues in Pittsburgh and Oakland, the Patriots organization has no control over the fate of Brown.  

Unfortunately for detesters and teams outside of New England, the Patriots are very good at handling their internal affairs. While they may not have any control of Brown’s outside allegations, “The Patriot Way” established and enforced by Bill Belichick since 2000 has been very effective, and protective of key players and personnel, as the organization has taken suspensions, fines, and revoked draft picks for the good of the team, on more than one occasion. 

“The Patriot Way” seemed to be in full swing Sunday, as Brown left Hard Rock Stadium immediately after the game, continuing his silence with the media following the rape allegations levied by Taylor, that were made public on Sept. 9. The receiver will likely receive a fine for a clear violation of the NFL Media Policy, but a fine is more desirable than an unexpected tirade perpetuated by a loose-lipped individual like Brown.

While the Raiders offense looked dismal this week against Kansas City and the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger to injury in their second defeat of the year, only time will tell if they or the Patriots will be the real losers in the wake of Antonio Brown.