Antonio Brown: The “Star” of the Show On and Off the Field

After being the center of attention of the NFL throughout the entire preseason and the start of the regular season, Antonio Brown continues to be in the spotlight, despite his release from the Patriots on September 20th and his resulting unemployment. 

Brown’s long, tumultuous journey out of the NFL started with an impressive 2018 season with the Steelers marred by inner squad conflict. Brown was benched the last game of the season against the Bengals (which they needed to win to make the playoffs) for throwing a football at his quarterback the previous week. In the spring of 2019, the Oakland Raiders traded a 3rd and 5th round draft pick to the Steelers in exchange for Antonio Brown, who then negotiated a three year, $50.125 million contract with the Raiders.

After acquiring a new general manager and the best wide receiver in the league, the Raiders were optimistic about the upcoming 2019 season. However, their enthusiasm didn’t last. When the NFL told Brown he had to choose a new helmet for the upcoming season, he was adamant that he would not play unless he could use his old one. He filed several grievances against the league, which were denied because the helmet was simply too old to meet modern safety standards. In addition, Brown underwent a cryotherapy session without proper foot protection, leading to frostbite and the loss of a complete layer of skin on the bottom of his feet. He couldn’t practice for two weeks.

Upon his return, Brown skipped mandatory practices and walk-throughs and even got into an agitated confrontation with Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock. Brown was later fined $215,000 for this conflict, which voided his nearly $30 million in guaranteed money. He expressed his agitation by posting a video that included a recorded phone call between him and Head Coach Jon Gruden, and by asking for a release later on. The Raiders agreed. 

The same day of his release, Brown signed a $15 million one-year deal with the New England Patriots that included a $9 million signing bonus. Not more than 24 hours later, Brown’s old trainer, Britany Taylor, filed lawsuit against him for three instances of sexual assault or rape. On top of this, an artist hired to paint a wall in Brown’s house accused him of sexual misconduct a few days after the first accusations. It was then revealed on September 19th that Brown sent threatening messages to the artist. The Patriots released Brown the next day. 

As of October 9th, Taylor’s lawyers have refiled her federal lawsuit in a Florida state court, charging Brown with rape, battery, assault, false imprisonement and intentional infliction of emotional distress — all of which he denies. 

Now, Brown is still providing headlines by filing several grievances against the league in an attempt to recover at $39.775 million in signing bonuses, guarantees, fines, and unpaid salary from the Raiders and Patriots. It will most likely take months for his cases to be heard, and their verdicts could set a precedent for future players looking for compensation.

Following the spectacle of Brown’s short-lived 2019 season, I asked Washington High School football players their thoughts. Eric Johnson, the varsity quarterback, talked about the example set by Brown. He said, “I wouldn’t say I wanna be like him. I want his work ethic and everything, but the decisions he made, nah I wouldn’t wanna be like that.”  

When asked how he would have felt to be one of Brown’s teammates on the Raiders, Jorden Brown, another varsity player, said, “I would be real mad ‘cause you gon’ hype me up and you gon’ wanna be on my team and you’re gonna complain about a helmet. I just think if I was his teammate I would be upset.” 

Even Coach Edwards shared his opinion about what Brown’s thought process was behind his recent decisions. He said “I don’t even think Antonio Brown could answer that, to be honest with you. He is kinda all over the place. As far as coachability, I think everyone can see it’s difficult to maintain a personality like his ‘cause you never know what he’s gonna do.”

Brown’s future remains uncertain. Until the NFL’s investigation ends, we won’t know if he will be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list or not, or, consequently, when he’ll resume play in the NFL. 

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