The Patriots have issued a statement regarding the sexual assault and rape lawsuit filed against receiver Antonio Brown. And the statement says plenty about the NFL’s response to the situation.
“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. “We take these allegations very seriously. Under no circumstance 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.”
While the league has not responded to a request for comment from PFT, the team’s statement makes it clear that the NFL will exercise its prerogative to explore the matter. Because no criminal investigation is pending, the league need not wait to investigate. Because the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Britney Taylor, has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the NFL, the league should face no obstacles, given its inability to subpoena non-employees of the league or its teams.
Depending on the information obtained, Brown could be placed on the Commissioner-Exempt list while the investigation proceeds. He also could be disciplined by the league even in the absence of an arrest or conviction.
The statement also implies that the Patriots will be taking no action while the investigation proceeds. In 1996, the Patriots rescinded their rights to fifth-round draft pick Christian Peter based on a string of arrests while in college at Nebraska. Given that Brown has denied the allegations made against him, it’s impossible at this point to know whether he has any actual responsibility. If the league finds that Brown engaging in misconduct, the Patriots could choose to part ways with Brown.