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New England Patriots release Antonio Brown amid rape allegations

The controversial wide receiver told his now-former team: "Thanks for the opportunity."
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The New England Patriots released wide receiver Antonio Brown on Friday after just one game with the defending champions amid sexual assault allegations.

"We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time," the team said Friday afternoon.

At about the same time, Brown tweeted: "Thanks for the opportunity appreciate @Patriots."

The Patriots signed Brown after he was cut by the Oakland Raiders over disagreements about the helmet he'd wear and a reported confrontation with the team's general manager.

After New England signed him, Brown was accused of sexually assaulting a trainer, according to a lawsuit she filed. His lawyers have denied all allegations stemming from the lawsuit.

The Patriots dropped Brown a day after Nike confirmed it had parted ways with the mercurial wide receiver. He "hopes to play for another team" this season.

And earlier this week, Sports Illustrated reported that Brown allegedly sent "intimidating" text messages to a second woman, who also accused him of unwanted sexual advances.

He called this woman "super broke" and threatened to "look up her background," according to her lawyers, who sent copies of the text messages to NFL offices and the Patriots on Thursday.

"We have included the relevant text messages here, which are clearly in violation of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, as they amount to 'stalking, harassment, or other forms of intimidation,' " the woman's lawyer Lisa Banks wrote.

"We request that the NFL conduct an appropriate investigation into Mr. Brown's threatening actions and also take steps to ensure that he and his associates immediately cease their harassment and intimidation of our client and her family."

The NFL said in a statement Friday that "Our office is presently 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 league added.

Hours before the player was released, Patriots coach Bill Belichick walked out of a press conference when reporters asked him several Brown-related questions.

"I think I've already addressed this. So we're going to get ready for the Jets here, happy to answer any football questions," the coach said. "But the rest of it, I'm done with the rest of it."

When the Brown questions kept coming, Belichick beat a hasty retreat from the podium and said: "I'm good, OK, thank you."

In Brown's lone game for New England, a 43-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday, he caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady and led the team in receiving yards.

The NFL said that as Brown is currently an unrestricted free agent, placement on the "Commissioner's exempt list" — which has been called in effect paid leave — is not currently appropriate.

"If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation," the NFL statement said.

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