Patriots release Antonio Brown after claims of sexual misconduct, intimidation of accuser

The New England Patriots released wide receiver Antonio Brown on Friday, 11 days after he formally joined the club following a well-publicized breakup with the Oakland Raiders.

"The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown," a Patriots spokesperson said. "We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move forward in a different direction at this time."

Since Brown was placed on New England's active roster Sept. 9, two women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. One of the women, a former trainer of Brown, filed a civil suit in South Florida federal court alleging that Brown raped her. Another woman, a painter, told Sports Illustrated that Brown exposed himself to her while she was working on a mural at his Pittsburgh home two years ago.

On Thursday, Sports Illustrated reported that the painter "received a group text message that appeared to come from the same phone number Brown provided to her in 2017. The text chain, with four other phone numbers on it, included photos of her and her children, with the person she believes is Brown encouraging others in the group to investigate the woman. The texter accused the artist of fabricating her account of the 2017 incident for cash."

Lawyers for the woman said in a statement that the league and the Patriots "took our client's concerns seriously."

"She wanted the threats and intimidation to stop and we hope that will be [the] case," said a statement emailed to reporters from attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz. "The NFL has assured us that regardless of Antonio Brown's roster status, it will continue to investigate all claims regarding his behavior."

Brown, who has denied any wrongdoing, appeared to take his release in stride, tweeting: "Thanks for the opportunity appreciate @Patriots" alongside pictures of him talking to head coach Bill Belichick and hugging quarterback Tom Brady during last week's 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. In that game, Brown caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

"It's unfortunate things didn't work out with the Patriots," Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus tweeted. "But Antonio is healthy and is looking forward to his next opportunity in the NFL. He wants to play the game he loves and he hopes to play for another team soon."

Brown's release was announced hours after Belichick cut short his scheduled Friday press conference following repeated questions about Brown. In an opening statement, the coach said, "there are some things that we are looking into, but I’m not going to comment on any of the off-the-field situations or questions on that."

After a series of questions from reporters about Brown and his potential availability for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, Belichick walked out of the press room, saying: "I'm good. Thank you."

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Brown spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since joining the Patriots. He took only four questions and declined to discuss the accusations.

Late Friday, the NFL said it was "investigating multiple allegations, some of which are the subject of pending litigation. We have as yet made no findings regarding these issues. The investigation is ongoing and will be pursued vigorously and expeditiously." The statement added that if Brown is signed by another club, he may be placed on the Commissioner's exempt list -- essentially paid leave from the league -- "at any time depending on the status of the investigation.

"Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he [Brown] may also be subject to discipline if the investigation finds that he has violated the law or league policies," the statement concluded.

New England reached a one-year deal with Brown on Sept. 7, hours after he was released by Oakland. The 31-year-old was traded to the Raiders in March after wearing out his welcome with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a four-time All-Pro in nine seasons. He signed a deal with the Raiders that would have paid him up to $50 million, but he quarreled with management and never made it onto the field in the silver and black.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.