Antonio Brown accused of rape in civil lawsuit

Antonio Brown has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida.

In the lawsuit, a copy of which was reviewed by ESPN, Brown's former trainer, Britney Taylor, accuses the newly signed New England Patriots receiver of sexually assaulting her on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018.

"We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio's representatives," the Patriots said in a statement on Tuesday night. "We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstances 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 first alleged incident was in June 2017; Taylor says Brown exposed himself and kissed her without consent at one of his Pittsburgh-area homes. A month later, while at Brown's home in his native Miami, Brown masturbated near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back, then later bragged about it in a series of text messages, Taylor alleges in the lawsuit. Taylor also says that in May 2018, after a night out at a Miami-area club, she went back to Brown's home in Miami to use the bathroom and have some food, and Brown "forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress and forcibly raped her."

Brown's lawyer, Darren Heitner, said in a statement Tuesday night that his client and Taylor were involved in a "consensual personal relationship. Any sexual interaction with Mr. Brown was entirely consensual."

In a tweet on Tuesday, Heitner said Brown "will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including all of his rights in countersuits."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said at his news conference that Brown will practice Wednesday. Asked if Brown would play on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, he said the Patriots are taking it one day at a time.

"On Antonio's situation, both Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I'm not going to be expanding on any of those. They are what they are. We've looked into the situation. We're taking it very seriously, all the way through the organization. I'm sure there are questions, but I'm not going to be entering a discussion about that today," he said Wednesday.

Taylor was a gymnast at Central Michigan, where Brown attended college. According to the lawsuit, they met in a Bible study group at the school and became friends, then fell out of touch for several years before reconnecting in June 2017, with Brown hiring Taylor to assist in his physical training.

In the lawsuit, Taylor says she believed their relationship was of a "brother-sister" type and acted accordingly.

The alleged incidents have left Taylor suffering "near-daily panic attacks and suicidal ideations," per the lawsuit. She is seeking in excess of $75,000.

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

Brown spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before being traded this past offseason to the Oakland Raiders. After a weekslong saga with Oakland, he was released Saturday, and he officially signed two days later with the Patriots.

The lawsuit caught the Patriots by surprise, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, and the team will have to decide how to proceed with Brown, who was scheduled for his first practice with New England on Wednesday. One possibility is that Roger Goodell will place Brown on the commissioner's exempt list, sources said, which would mean Brown will not be counted on the Patriots' active list while the league investigates the allegations.

ESPN's Dan Graziano reported that the NFL will begin its investigation into the allegations Wednesday and there is no timetable for completion. A source said it's "too soon to speculate" on whether Brown will be allowed to play Sunday against the Dolphins.

Taylor is willing and planning to meet with the NFL next week. She can't do it before then because she is getting married, sources tell Schefter.

Heitner told ESPN's Michael Eaves that he has "not been in contact with the league regarding this lawsuit."