On Sept. 10, famous wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2010, Antonio Brown, was accused of sexual assault and rape by his former college classmate and trainer, Britney Taylor.
In a federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida, Taylor explains that Brown took advantage of her “kindness and religious devotion, casting himself as a person equally dedicated to his religious faith and someone she could trust.” Taylor explains that Brown’s use of manipulation on her brought her into his world, where she was harmed and can never be repaired.
Taylor met Brown back in 2010 at Central Michigan University as Bible study partners in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus. Although Taylor transferred to Louisiana State University, the two remained friends until they lost touch after graduation.
In June of 2017, Brown messaged Taylor on Facebook asking her for assistance in “improving flexibility and strength in his ankles and fast twitch muscles,” according to the lawsuit. Knowing Taylor’s career as a gymnast, Brown knew she had the expertise to help him.
During their first training session in early June, Taylor stayed with Brown as she had expected the pair to remain friendly and she had not booked a hotel room. While Taylor was undressing in an empty upstairs room, Brown entered with his private parts exposed and kissed Taylor without her consent. As a woman in sports, Taylor took her working relationship with Brown seriously, and decided to forget about the incident and continue working for Brown.
A few weeks later at another session, while watching a church service together from Brown’s home, Taylor felt a wet spot on her back and realized Brown had masturbated and ejaculated on her. Brown is said to have responded: “oh ‘B’…you know, I’m sorry,” showing how unphased he was by his actions.
Brown repeatedly sent cruel messages to Taylor, stating things like “f*ck your knowledge b*tch I been all pro before I even knew u!” and “u a disgrace to lil girls u a failed gymnast living in the past at your momma house with your momma!” according to email screenshots in the lawsuit.
In March of 2018, Brown convinced Taylor to train him again, promising that he would not flirt with her anymore and that her hotel accommodations would be provided on every trip.
After dropping off Brown and a fellow teammate at his home in Miami in late May 2018, Taylor went inside to use the bathroom and get a snack from the kitchen. As she said her goodbyes, Brown grabbed her and brought her into his bedroom, forcing her onto her stomach and saying “you know you want this,” according to the lawsuit.
Although Taylor repeatedly said “no” and “stop,” Brown continued to assault her, starting a downward spiral of her mental health. Afterwards, in a confused daze, Taylor fell to the ground in Brown’s foyer and was left alone. She had no one but herself to force her up and into her car. She was alone.
Standing up for sexual assault and rape is incredibly difficult for women in our society, and Taylor was afraid to rise to the challenge. Fans of Brown, sadly, are using social media to frame Taylor as someone looking for Brown’s money, as he just signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots one day before the lawsuit was filed.
“Antonio Brown will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including exercising all of his rights in countersuits,” Darren Heitner, Brown’s attorney, tweeted when the lawsuit was filed, proving his stance on whether Brown was guilty or not. Either way, the investigation remains ongoing.
The National Football League (NFL) ironically committed $10 million in 2016 to an initiative against sexual violence, but the turnout of convictions regarding allegations are rare and the NFL issues no punishment for athletes. For example, in 2017 Rueben Foster, former linebacker for the 49ers was arrested after his girlfriend accused him of dragging her through their house. He was also accused of having an illegal assault rifle and making criminal threats.
Foster was sentenced to 232 hours of community service, and the charges were dropped. The NFL only suspended him for two games and he currently still plays for the Washington Redskins.
Professional athletes must be held accountable for their actions by their respective leagues. The societal stigmas surrounding the horrific experiences of sexual assault must end.