There was the materials to make a good episode in this, but botched just so badly. It could have been a good episode if the writers actually respected the legal process and what lawyers do. Based on the facts of what we saw, the DAs had a shit case. They had no initial report, no rape kit, no real contemporaneous investigation of the allegation, other potential witnesses who were skeptical, and a victim and victim's attorney who were provocative and attention seeking. Plus there was still the bad blood between SVU and Hadid. The bulk of the episode should have been about the DA's office. It should have been Carisi and a more senior ADA reinterviewing the witnesses, figuring out that the victim's art, online videos, press conference made voir dire really difficult, trying to prep the victim for trial, endless plea offers to the defendant, and seeing how the trial played out.
The Benson vs Hadid pissing match could have continued to play out as an undercurrent. However, Carisi should not have been first chair. That was ridiculous. It's much more likely that Hadid would only have let him on this dog of a case as a 2nd or 3rd after Benson pulled strings, but might sandbag Carisi by giving him the victim's direct. You have a recalcitrant and defiant victim. There has been enough info to suggest that she was going to be a very difficult on the stand and should possibly be treated as hostile. I can see Hadid smirkily saying "Carisi should do the victim's direct because he's the SVU whisperer." It could have still allowed Carisi to panic a little while making him a little less culpable on the whole.
I don't think this is based on Antonio Brown at all. That story broke late in September. Production goes dark mid December. They tend to give directors like Mariska a ton of lead time for pre-production and post production. When the Antonio Brown story broke, they may have even been filming the episode. The art piece of the story was likely based on Emma Sulkowicz. The rest is pretty generic powerful man less powerful woman story tropes. Although I keep thinking that there is an athlete who did have a part ownership in a restaurant or club where harassment was a recent issue.
Antonio's allegation is very similar to Peyton Manning's. A number of college teammates of Peyton confirmed the trainer's account were essentially what they remembered of the events. Peyton has to pay money to the former trainer about once a decade because he can't stop being an asshole and spontaneous decides to talk shit about her despite the NDA they both signed.
What Markeevious said is essentially correct, but I'm going to amend this his statements. There are opportunists who will do almost anything for money and there are groupies who will do many many many things for a connection. My cousin is a former pro football player. I have another who is a college basketball coach. I have never dated, had sex with, or been involved with an athlete professional or amateur. However, I have seen some shit and it was mind boggling, especially because so many of the girls and women were smart and reasonable outside of their infatuation with wanting to be with an athlete. Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa, is a great example because her family kept throwing her in front of Kobe and was pretty willing to accomodate whatever Kobe wanted. She was a high school student when they met on the set of a rap music video shoot where she was a background video vixen. The Birdman catfish is another example.
Honestly, Mariska is a profoundly mediocre director. She's directed 6 other episodes, but this just looked like shit, was blocked like shit, and was slapped together like shit. Former Star Trek actors are kind of my standard for tv actor turned tv directors because they tend to be fairly prolific and frequently do a lot of really technically difficult shows (lots of stunts, CGI effects, or require a ton of make ups and costumes): LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill, and Roxann Dawson. What helped was that none of them had such a stranglehold on their shows that the shows couldn't afford to juggle things to allow the actors time off to direct an episode of another tv show.