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  • Writer's pictureVillanova Sports Law Blog

Can Antonio Brown’s Legal Issues Force Him Out of the League?

By: Daphne Ghirardi

Since the end of the 2018 season, Antonio Brown has been a hot topic in the National Football League (NFL) due to rising tensions between him and the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, currently all eyes are on Antonio Brown for the wrong reason. Antonio Brown has been the subject of civil lawsuits and criminal charges that could end his NFL career.

Brown’s legal trouble began in October of 2018 when he was accused of nearly killing a toddler while throwing furniture off of his 14th floor balcony in a fit of rage. [1] Brown settled the civil lawsuit by agreeing to pay for the child’s college fund. [2] A few months later, February 2019, Brown failed to appear in court and was found guilty of reckless driving. [3] In April of 2019, Brown was sued by a celebrity chef for throwing the chef out of his rental and holding his cooking tools captive.[4]

Despite his rocky legal past, Brown has not been punished by the league for any of his actions. Then, in September 2019, everything changed. Brown was civilly sued for the sexual assault and rape of his former trainer on three separate occasions. [5] A few days later, a second women came forward with allegations about Brown sexually assaulting her. [6] The second women did not file a civil suit and was not seeking money damages from Brown. However, Brown responded to the women’s allegations by sending her intimidating and threating text messages. [7] After this news became public, Brown was quickly released by his current employer, the New England Patriots. [8]

Throughout the 2019 Brown remained unsigned as the NFL continued their investigation. Although Brown had not received an official punishment from the NFL, many teams feared that if they had signed Brown, he would immediately be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List until the investigation was complete. The Commissioner may decide to place a player on the Commissioner’s Exempt List when a player is accused of a crime involving violence and further investigation is required. A player on the Commissioner’s Exempt List will be paid while the investigation is ongoing, but is not able to play or practice. [9]

Before the NFL was able to finish their investigation, Brown encountered more legal trouble. Brown was charged with burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, and criminal mischief. Burglary with battery is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. [10] The charges arise from an altercation with the driver of a moving company after Brown refused to pay a $4000 bill. [11] The driver refused to remove Brown’s belongings from the truck without payment, as he drove away Brown threw rocks at the truck which dented the truck and chipped the paint. The driver returned to Brown’s house, where Brown paid the $4000 bill but refused to pay for the damage to the truck. Brown then allegedly entered the truck, grabbed the driver, and opened the back of the truck causing damage. [12] Although Brown has been released on bond, he must consent to a mental health evaluation, submit to a drug test, wear a GPS monitor, relinquish his passport and firearms, and stay out of legal trouble. [13]

As a first-time offender, Brown is unlikely to face the maximum sentences but could be ordered to spend a period of time in prison. [14] However, if Brown is able to escape criminal liability, a future in the NFL is unlikely. Teams have shown little interest in the troubled wide receiver and the NFL is unlikely to release an official punishment until someone does. Brown could be facing anywhere from a six-game suspension to a permanent banishment from the NFL. [15] First offense violations of the Personal Conduct Policy that involve felony criminal assault or battery or sexual assault involving physical force will subject the player to a minimum of a six-game suspension. A second offense of these violations will result in permanent banishment from the NFL. [16] Depending on how the NFL decides to approach Brown’s string of legal trouble, the young, talented wide receiver may never take the field again.

[1] Gaydos, R. (2019). Antonio Brown’s timeline of drama: Details of the star wide reciever’s incident. Retrieved from

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Calicchio, D. (2019) Antonio Brown accused of sending ‘intimidating’ text messages to second accuser: report. Retrieved from

[7] Id.

[8] Gaydos, R. (2019). Antonio Brown’s timeline of drama: Details of the star wide reciever’s incident. Retrieved from

[9] (2016). Personal Conduct Policy League Policies for Players. Retried from

[10] McCann, M. (2020). Legal Fallout From Antonio Brown’s Burglary With Battery Charges. Retrieved from

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] (2016). Personal Conduct Policy League Policies for Players. Retried from

[16] Id.

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