The career implosion of NFL superstar Antonio Brown continued today as the league’s defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, jettisoned the mercurial athlete after sexual misconduct claims were made by a second woman.
Just 20 days after the Patriots signed Brown to a one-year $15 million contract (with a reported $9 million signing bonus) his tenure in Boston ended with a dismissive 37-word statement from the NFL’s flagship franchise: “The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown. 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.”
An elite offensive threat, Brown has also been a prominent persona in pop culture as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2016 and a performer on The Masked Singer during that show’s premiere season. (He was the Hippo who interpreted bad-boy Bobby Brown’s My Perogative.) Brown also appeared last year in rapper Drake’s music video for God’s Plan and was given the coveted cover image on Madden 19, the video game release from EA Sports.
Brown started the year as the highest paid wide receiver in football and a member of the Oakland Raiders but that team cut him on Sept. 7 after a series of contentious incidents that underlined the superstar’s unpredictable temperament and oddball priorities. Among the issues: Brown’s failure to wear proper footwear in a cryogenic chamber left him with frostbite injuries on his very valuable feet.
The locker room eccentricities of Brown, however, have now taken a backseat to more serious matters after accusations of sexual misconduct by two women.
Sports Illustrated published a story on Monday quoting a woman who said she was hired to paint a mural in Brown’s home but was then fired when she did not yield to his sexual advances. The same story included reports of off-kilter behavior by Brown, including a medical doctor’s complaint that the NFL hero amused himself by farting in the physician’s face three times during an exam that began with the athlete arriving three hours late and ended with a still-unpaid bill.
Far more disturbing claims were made the previous week by a former trainer who claimed in her Florida civil filing that Brown sexual assaulted her and raped her. That accuser was interviewed by the NFL on Monday in a session that stretched over 10 hours. Brown declined to answer questions about the accusations during the week but he did acknowledge his release on Friday with a tweet to his 1.5 million followers on Twitter.
The controversies surrounding Brown also prompted Nike to drop the superstar from his lucrative endorsement deal. “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete,” a spokesperson for Nike told the Boston Globe on Wednesday.
The move by Nike to banish Brown in such terse fashion may send a grim signal about the gridiron star’s plummeting reputation and long-term brand value. Nike officials stood by both Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods when sordid reports of their personal conduct hit the nation’s sports pages and the company showed no fear of controversy when it embraced former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick after his polarizing exile from the NFL.
Brown has been a dominant player in the NFL and looked like a lock for the NFL’s Hall of Fame when he was still wearing the uniform of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him in 2010. The 31-year-old Miami native has 11,263 career receiving yards with 75 touchdown catches.