By Rani B. ’21 and Natalie P. ’22
The New England Patriots are back at it and currently 4-0-0, having steamrolled the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, and Bills so far. They are set to play the Washington Redskins at the FedExField next Sunday. A few notable players that have been tearing up the field this past month include running back Sony Michel, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, tight end Matt LaCrosse, and quarterback Tom Brady. However, one (former) Patriots player has been breaking headlines this month for his off the field actions: Antonio Brown.
Before coming to the Patriots, Antonio Brown was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the sixth pick in the 2010 NFL draft. During his nine years on the Steelers, Brown was an exceptional All-Pro receiver. In March 2019, after multiple off-field incidents, including a pair of lawsuits against him and several NFL violations, the Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders. After acquiring Brown, the Raiders were forced to fine the wide receiver for causing multiple team setbacks. Brown continuously skipped practice and also recorded confrontational conversations with his teammates and Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock. Finally, on September 7, 2019, the Raiders released Brown after fining him $215,000 and voiding his contract of $30 million dollars in guaranteed money (NBC).
The New England Patriots signed Antonio Brown on September 9, 2019, the day before sexual assault allegations by his former trainer Britney Taylor were made public. Taylor claimed that Brown had sexually assaulted her twice in June 2017 and a third time in May 2018 where he allegedly raped her (NBC).
When asked about signing Brown in the midst of his sexual assault allegations, Brown’s agent and the Patriots claimed that they did not know about the lawsuit before agreeing on a deal with the wide receiver. Bill Belichick refused to comment further on the subject before their game on September against the Dolphins, which Brown participated in. However, on September 20, the Patriots disclosed a statement releasing Antonio Brown. He only spent 11 days with the team. Brown is yet to be signed by another team, and the NFL is still investigating his case.
In terms of how the team should evolve in the absence of Brown, Maggie Furlong ’20 commented in terms of the team’s roster and depth that “They already have three standout receivers, including the Super Bowl MVP in Julian Edelman and one of the very few receivers to exceed 1,500 receiving yards in one season in Josh Gordon. Those guys can make the plays…just maybe not the insane 40-50 yd catches and runs that AB would have made. However, the Patriots almost never incorporate flashy expensive receivers like AB into their plan anyway. They haven’t had someone like that since Randy Moss in 2010.” Regarding her opinion on the Patriots’ decision to allow Antonio Brown to play in the midst of the allegations against, Catherine M. ’23 commented that “[Playing Brown against the Dolphins] means the Patriots believed it was okay to play an alleged rapist… The Patriots were playing a game where the only thing that matters is winning… I think it is understandable and justified to keep Brown until conducting interviews and an investigation. However, I think it was incredibly inappropriate to play him in the game against the Dolphins as if there was nothing wrong.”
In the past, players such as Aaron Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end convicted of murder, were released just hours after he was arrested for murder. Although a player may be a great success on the field, the Patriots have proven that they will distance themselves from people like Hernandez whose actions do not align with the organization. Hopefully, the Patriots and the NFL will continue to investigate players like Brown and appropriately discipline them for both their on-field and off-field actions.