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NFL Star Antonio Brown Accused of Rape in Civil Lawsuit

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  • In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the New England Patriots’ new wide receiver Antonio Brown was accused of three incidents of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018, against his former trainer. 
  • Brown denied the allegations, with his legal team saying the sexual relationship was consensual and suggesting that the accuser is after money. 
  • The N.F.L. will launch its own investigation into the claims, but as of now, it is unclear if Brown will be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Accuser Files Lawsuit 

New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of raping his former trainer, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida.

The civil complaint claims that Brown, 31, assaulted a woman named Britney Taylor, 28, on three separate occasions, two times in June 2017 and another time in May 2018. Taylor, a gymnast who says she was Brown’s Bible study partner while both attended Central Michigan, stayed in contact with Brown after he reached the N.F.L. and was later hired as his trainer. 

According to the suit, the first alleged incident happened when Brown exposed himself and kissed her without consent inside one of his Pittsburgh-area homes. Later that month, Taylor claims that they were watching a religious program together when he masturbated near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back at his Miami home. Taylor also claims that Brown later bragged about this incident in a series of profane text messages, which are included in the lawsuit. 

Taylor says she ended her working relationship with him after that but reconnected with him again after he apologized to her several months later. The suit says she was “swayed by his assurance that he would cease any sexual advances.”

The third incident allegedly happened the following year after a night out at a Miami-area club. The lawsuit claims that Taylor went back to Brown’s Miami home to use the bathroom and grab some food. When she was there, he allegedly “forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and forcibly raped her.” She claims she tried to resist by screaming and repeatedly shouting “no” and “stop.”

The lawsuit says Taylor told at least three people about the incidents: her mother, Brown’s chef, and a member of her church. 

“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision,” Taylor said in a statement released by her lawyer. “I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault.”

The lawsuit says the incidents have left Taylor suffering from “near-daily panic attacks and suicidal ideations.” She is seeking in excess of $75,000 for claims of sexual battery, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and invasion of privacy for unwanted and offensive sexual contact.

NFL Investigation 

The court filing came just a day after Brown joined the Patriots, after requesting a release from the Oakland Raiders last week. The Patriots issued a statement Tuesday night saying the N.F.L planned to conduct its own investigation into the accusations, which Taylor has agreed to cooperate with. 

“We take these allegations very seriously,” the Patriots said. “Under no circumstance does this organization condone sexual violence or assault. The league has informed us that they will be investigating. We will have no further comment while that investigation takes place.”

The league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, has the power to discipline players under a personal conduct policy. The policy does not rely on the outcome of legal proceedings. However, as of now, it’s unclear what steps the N.F.L. will take against Brown if any.

The Washington Post reported that the league will “give serious consideration” to putting Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, making him ineligible to play. Although if this happens, he would still receive a paycheck since the list is considered a form of paid leave. 

One anonymous source told the Post that placement on the list is something the league “is going to have to focus on” in the coming days. It is still unknown if any decision will be made before the Patriots are scheduled to play again. 

Brown Denies Accusations 

“Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit,” Brown’s attorney Darren Heitner said in a statement. “He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations.”

Heitner went on to say the two engaged in a “consensual personal relationship” in 2018.  He also suggested that Taylor’s accusations were motivated by money.

In the statement, Heitner claimed that Taylor approached Brown in 2017, “shortly after Mr. Brown signed a contract making him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.”

He said she asked him to invest $1.6 million into a business project, but added that Brown, “was not informer that by his accuser that she had just been levied with a $30,000 IRD tax lien or that $300,000 of the $1.6 million so called ‘investment’ was to be used to purchase property already owned by the accuser and her mother.”

He also added that Taylor traveled to Brown’s resident on several occasions, asked for tickets to a game, and posted a photo of Brown on her social media “in an effort to financially benefit from his celebrity.”

“Mr. Brown, whose hard work and dedication to his craft allowed him to rise to the top of his profession, refuses to be the victim of what he believes is a money grab.”

In a follow-up tweet, Heitner said Brown “will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including all of his rights in countersuits.”

See what others are saying: (ESPN)  (The New York Times) (The Washington Post

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Selena Gomez Receives Praise and Backlash for Netflix Docuseries “Living Undocumented”

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  • Netflix released a trailer for its new docuseries executive produced by Selena Gomez titled “Living Undocumented,” which follows eight families as they work to gain legal status amid fears of deportation.
  • Some are praising the project for shining a light on immigration issues, while others fear the show will exploit the pain and trauma immigrants in the U.S. experience.
  • Others also criticized Gomez for only now stepping into the immigration conversation; however, Gomez has been vocal about some immigration issues in the past. 

Living Undocumented” Announced

Netflix released a trailer on Tuesday for its new docuseries Living Undocumented, which was met with both praise and criticism largely directed at its star executive producer Selena Gomez.

The docuseries, which is scheduled for an Oct. 2 release, follows eight different families who are struggling to gain legal status amid fears of deportation. 

“I knew I wasn’t born here,” a young girl says in the trailer. “I just didn’t know that not being born here was something that was dangerous. And I always have to do everything scared.” 

“That’s the dream, isn’t it?” a man says in Spanish. “To be able to say: we belong in this society.” 

In a statement about the project Gomez said, “I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented, because over the past few years, the word immigrant has seemingly become a negative word.”

In a separate Instagram post, she added that the show will star real people facing issues that are more complex than one administration or law.

@SelenaGomez

Mixed Response Online

After watching the trailer and learning of Gomez’s involvement, many people online began praising the series.

“Just watched the previews for #livingundocumented and it brought tears to my eyes,” one Twitter user wrote. “My parents came to the us undocumented and I remembered what it felt like living in that fear. can’t wait to watch @selenagomez”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, others worried the show might exploit undocumented immigrants. Some also criticized Gomez, claiming she hasn’t done enough for the undocumented community.

“People want to claim their communities issues when those issues become monetary gain,” one person said. “Selena Gomez gets to make this one documentary and pretend to do any work for the undocumented community. She gets to make these people relive trauma and walk away with a Netflix check.”

Several concerns stemmed from the fact that Gomez herself was born in Texas, making her a legal citizen.

“The undocumented community has emphasized so much that we don’t like when people try to be the voice of the voiceless,” one person said. “She’s not undocumented and doesn’t fully understand that experience so when people try to speak for us it can come off inaccurately”

Other people who also said they are undocumented, however, supported Gomez and the show for shedding light on the issue by bringing the narrative to undocumented families.

“Why is it a problem when Selena helps?” one person tweeted. “It’s almost like you guys wait for her to breath to tell her she’s doing it wrong. I’m an undocumented [immigrant] and I am very happy she did this. Why aren’t you? She’s literally bringing more attention to it which we need. Be grateful sheeeeessh”

Others noted that she is using her platform to bring attention to undocumented families, who are the ones voicing their own stories in the show.

Gomez’s Previous Support for Immigrants

In June, Gomez criticized housing conditions for children at migrant detention facilities, a story which attracted widespread scrutiny.

“Kids in cages!” the singer said in an Instagram post. “Sleeping on concrete floors with aluminum blankets! No access to simple dignities! How is this still happening??? It’s absolutely inhumane to treat anyone like this let alone children. I can’t even imagine what they are going through. We need to get this to finally stop! Don’t stay silent on this human rights issue.”

Gomez then urged her fans to call their state representatives in D.C. 

In 2018, Gomez wrote a piece for Cristina Jiminez, who was being honored as one of Time’s Most Influential People that year. Jiminez came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant and later co-founding the immigration activist organization United We Dream.

As a nation of immigrants,” Gomez wrote, “the country is filled with those who believe in the American Dream: the ideal that everyone should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. Cristina Jiménez is the American Dream.”

Other Executive Producers

Gomez will join five other executive producers, including her mother, Mandy Teefey, and the show’s co-directors. 

One of those directors, Aaron Saidman, reiterated that the show is about the immigrants featured in it. 

“Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time,” he said. “But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Elle) (Entertainment Weekly)

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SNL Drops Comedian Shane Gillis After Use of Slurs Resurface

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  • Saturday Night Live revoked Shane Gillis’ invitation to appear as a cast member following online blowback from Gillis’ use of racial and homophobic slurs.
  • In a statement, Gillis said he thought it was “ridiculous” to put out a serious statement but said he respected SNL’s decision then called himself a “mad tv guy.”
  • Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang expressed disappointment over Gillis’ comments but said he shouldn’t lose his job and offered to meet with Gillis, even after learning the comedian seemingly used racial slurs against him in a podcast. 

SNL Cuts Shane Gillis

Saturday Night Live rescinded an offer for Shane Gillis to join the sketch comedy show’s upcoming 45th season on Monday following backlash over resurfaced clips of the comedian using racist and homophobic slurs.

“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL,” a spokesperson for Lorne Michaels said in a statement. “We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as a comedian and his impressive audition for SNL.”

“The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable,” the statement continues. “We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”

The comedian was hired on Sep. 12, along with two other new series regulars, Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang. Gillis immediately attracted national attention when reports of slurs from his podcast, “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” surfaced online.

On Monday, Gillis also provided a statement via Twitter, saying he respects SNL’s decision while seemingly taking a jab at the show by calling himself a “mad tv guy.”

“It feels ridiculous for comedians to be making serious public statements but here we are,” he said. “I’m a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL. That can’t be taken away. Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction.”

In his podcasts, Gillis uses a variety of slurs aimed at Asian individuals and gay men. Gillis also criticizes comedian Sarah Silverman for talking about women’s rights, criticizes comedians who discuss mental health, and uses caricatured racial accents. 

“Those guys are fucking gayer than ISIS. At least ISIS is out there, ‘We need to get the pussy. After we blow ourselves up, we get a bunch of pussy,” Gillis said in one podcast while using a faked Middle Eastern accent. “These white, fa***t comics they’re like, ‘I’m just sad life is hard and I’m gay.’”

In the same podcast, Gillis also said a Latino comic should go back to the Spanish-speaking TV station Univision. 

In a different podcast, Luis Gomez’s Real Ass Podcast, Gillis seemingly makes a slur against Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang about 46 minutes and 30 seconds into the recording. 

“Give me your next candidate, Dems. Jew ch**k, next,” Gillis said in the May podcast. “Actually, they are running a Jew ch**k.

Yang is not Jewish. 

Meeting With Andrew Yang

On Saturday, Yang posted a series of tweets regarding the situation and offered to meet with Gillis, saying he didn’t believe Gillis should lose his job.

“Shane – I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots,” Yang said. “But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like.”

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The offer apparently resonated with Gillis, because Monday, Yang posted another tweet, saying he will sit down with Gillis in the near future.

Reaction From Former SNL Cast and Host

Former SNL cast members and a former host also chimed in on the situation, with the responses among them mixed.

Sandra Oh, who hosted the show in March, praised the decision from SNL.

Rob Schneider, who was on the show in the 1990s, supported Gillis and said he “had the misfortune of being a cast member during this era of cultural unforgiveness.”

Schneider continued by saying he felt sad when he saw Gillis’ comments but suggested suspension as a more appropriate punishment.

On Lights Out with David Spade, Spade’s guests discussed SNL’s past history with racist skits, including John Belushi portraying a Samurai in the 1970s and Mike Myers playing a host on a Japanese game show skit where people cut off their fingers.

“I think, when I was younger on SNL,” Spade said, “when you get hired, the first move wasn’t to rifle through your past to make sure you get fired right away.”

See what others are saying: (NPR) (NBC) (CNN)

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John Legend Says “No One” Will Benefit From Felicity Huffman’s Sentence

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  • Many people thought Felicity Huffman was handed a light sentence after she was given just 14 days in prison for her role in the college admissions scandal.
  • This prompted many to bring up cases where women of color were sentenced to more jail time for similar or arguably smaller crimes, like lying about their address to get their children into a better school district.
  • John Legend responded by saying that both Huffman and the women in the other cases should receive no jail time for what they did. He believes that prison is not the answer for every crime, but said the criminal justice system still turns to it too frequently.

Reactions to Huffman’s Sentence

Musician John Legend responded to criticisms of Felicity Huffman’s sentencing for her role in the sweeping college admissions scandal, arguing that “no one in our nation will benefit” from her serving prison time. 

On Friday, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison along with one year supervised release, 250 hours community service, and a fine of $30,000. Huffman paid $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score boosted and pled guilty to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Many thought that just 14 days behind bars was lenient and compared Huffman’s case to those of black women who were given more time for crimes they considered similar or even less severe. 

One case many turned to was that of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for lying about her address to get her son into a better school district. At the time, she was homeless and living out of her van, shelters, and an apartment she only had access to at night. 

Others pointed to a similar case with Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio. She used her father’s address to get her children into a better school district and was handed two concurrent five-year sentences that she was later able to reduce to 10 days. Williams-Bolar’s case was cited in Huffman’s sentencing. Prosecutors argued that if someone in her situation served time, there’s no reason that Huffman, who comes from a more privileged background, should not do the same.

Critics of Huffman’s sentence argued that there were similarities between what Huffman did and what these two mothers did, as they all had the goal of getting their child a better education.

Another case people compared it to was that of Crystal Mason. Mason was handed a five-year sentence after unknowingly voting illegally. She tried to fill out a provisional ballot in 2016, and at the time she was on supervised release for a federal felony. Mason was unaware that she could not vote until her release was over and was convicted of illegal voting. 

She is currently repealing her sentence and gave a statement to the Huffington Post regarding Huffman’s time. 

“I don’t wish this for anyone, but a sentence to 14 days for actual serious fraud just shows how unfair my sentence is,” she told them. “I’m hopeful the Justices will see that under the law, I shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place.”

John Legend Responds

Musician and criminal justice reform advocate John Legend responded to these varied reactions without ever mentioning Huffman’s name. Instead of arguing that Huffman’s sentence was too light, he said people like her and the others mentioned should serve no time at all. 

He mentioned cases like McDowell and Mason and called them “insane” and “unconscionable.”

“We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff,” Legend concluded in his thread. 

On Sunday, he furthered his argument by suggesting that there are other ways people can be held accountable for their actions. 

Legend was not alone in believing prison time was not the answer. The executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar told the New York Times that putting the actress behind bars is not productive.

“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” he said. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”

Twitter users began to share what they found to be more productive ways for people like Huffman to right their wrongs. Some suggested she pay for the tuitions of McDowell’s children or contribute to scholarships.

See what others are saying: (Huffington Post) (USA Today) (The Atlantic)

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