As the dust settles on the eight-game suspension imposed by the league on free-agent receiver Antonio Brown, one thing is clear: There’s still plenty of dust floating around.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league’s investigation regarding whether Brown committed sexual assault and/or rape of his former trainer remains open. According to the source, no conclusions have been reached in that investigation. If a further violation is found, Brown would be subject to further discipline.
The league’s position on that allegation against Brown means several things. First, it means that the league’s investigation has to date been inconclusive. In other words, after interviewing the alleged victim, interviewing Brown, and engaging in other relevant steps to explore the situation over the past 11 months, the league can’t decide whether Brown did or didn’t do what he’s accused of doing.
Second, it means that, based on the ongoing litigation, further action could be taken against Brown. The league is leaving the door open presumably to avoid the possibility that it will exonerate Brown, and that Brown will then be found responsible in civil court. And so it appears that the league will wait for the civil case to conclude before making a final decision.
The obvious message to Brown is this: Settle the case. If the civil case goes away with no further evidence generated (and, as part of the settlement, an agreement that the alleged vicim will speak to no one about the situation), the league most likely won’t take further action against Brown.
Third, it seems apparent from the league’s announcement regarding Brown’s suspension that he will not be placed on the Commissioner Exempt list, pending the outcome of the civil case. That vague possibility kept teams from signing Brown last season. As a practical matter, it already has forced him to serve a 14-game unpaid suspension.
The question now becomes whether a team will sign him before, during, or after his eight-game suspension. Regardless, by the middle of the 2020 season, his suspension will be served.