Source – The NFL will give serious consideration to placing Antonio Brown on paid leave via its commissioner’s exempt list, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, after he was accused in a federal lawsuit in Florida of rape and sexual assault.
The wide receiver would be ineligible to play for the New England Patriots if he’s placed on the exempt list by the league.
Placing Brown on the exempt list is “possible” and something that the NFL is “going to have to focus on,” said one of the people close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
The league is investigating the allegations but it’s unclear whether a decision about the exempt list will be made this week, before the Patriots are scheduled to play again.
Remember back when everybody – OK, I – was worried about whether Antonio Brown was going to be a headache for the Patriots? When they signed him and I said I give him a 10% chance of making it through five months of the season without causing a major distraction, I was thinking about the usual, garden variety stuff. The ways he’s always done it. The sort of good, wholesome, old fashioned nutjob wide receiver behavior this country was built upon. Bitching about the game plan. Fighting with coaches. Counting his touches. Committing stupid penalties with idiotic celebrations. Putting himself ahead of the team. That kind of thing.
This I did not see coming.
And since our new National Pastime is parsing other people’s words so we can scream “You’re already saying he’s guilty!” or “Oh, so you’re OK with rapists as long as they play for your team?!?” and demanding they lose their jobs, let me state categorically no one has any idea what we’re dealing with. Other than the objectively true fact that this is, a major distraction. It may or may not be of Brown’s doing – that remains to be seen – but it is a distraction. And it is major. That is not in dispute.
So at the risk of opening myself up to the professional accusers in the Cancel Culture Mob, I ask you: Can the NFL really put Brown on the Exempt List – suspending him while calling it something else – for this? Because someone he was involved with for a very long time put some accusations in a lawsuit? Not criminal charges. Not a formal complaint. There hasn’t been a police investigation of any kind or a report repaired. Just some paragraphs in a document filed in a clerk’s office.
It might turn into much, much more. Or never go a step further. Who knows? But for that, you’re going to keep a player off the field until such time as it plays itself out? How is that even remotely close to anything resembling justice? By that standard, couldn’t you just file a lawsuit against your opponent’s All Pro quarterback a week before you play him to get him out of the game? After all, you can always withdraw it the following week when he’s scheduled to play that team in your division.
Some have legal experts have pointed out – correctly – that a very similar situation happened with Derrick Rose. He took his case to trial and was found not liable by a jury:
Imagine if the NBA had taken his livelihood away until after the trial. He couldn’t get those months/years back. It would be the furthest thing from fairness.
I’ll compare this to another situation that was eerily similar. History repeating itself, in fact. About another controversial ex-Oakland Raider wide receiver who came to the Patriots under a cloud of doubt while we were half expecting some sort of off the field problems to come up. Remember when Randy Moss was also sued for assault?:
On January 15, 2008, Orlando-based radio station WDBO reported that [Randy] Moss “had” been hit with a temporary injunction for protection against dating violence. According to the affidavit, Moss committed a battery upon Rachelle Washington, causing serious injury, and then refused to allow her to seek medical attention. … Moss claimed the woman was simply looking for money “over an accident,” because her lawyer came to his lawyer, threatening a lawsuit, and asking for money to settle before she went public to the media. Moss stated he had known Washington for about eleven years. He also stated in his defense that he has never assaulted a woman in his entire life, and asked that the media and fans “find out the facts” before “rush[ing] to judgment.” Moreover, Moss’ lawyer, in an e-mail to the Boston Globe accused the woman’s lawyer of “blatant threats and attempts to extort money” from Moss. On March 3, 2008, Rachelle Washington filed papers with the Broward County Circuit Court clerk’s office requesting that the restraining order be dissolved and the case closed. No criminal charges were ever filed in the incident.
That was with the Patriots in the playoffs chasing a 19-0 season. And while no one will own up to this now, there was a loud hue and cry across this great land of ours that Moss be suspended for the playoffs until the issue was sorted out. Then, cooler heads prevailed. He played. The lawsuit was dropped. Justice was served. Though the people who flushed Moss’ presumption of innocence down the toilet never admitted how wrong they were.
But that was then, and this is now. Now we’re getting multiple reports from within league offices that caving into public pressure is possible, and “guilty until proven innocent” might actually be the new law of the NFL land. If Brown is guilty of what he’s accused of, ban him from football and throw him in jail for all I care. But unless and until he ever is, keeping him off the field would be a miscarriage of justice.