The Antonio Brown Conundrum
What exactly happened to the star wide receiver?
October 11, 2019
The Antonio Brown Conundrum
It all happened so fast. Every day, football fans were glued to their televisions as the newest in the ‘Antonio Brown saga’ occurred, one of the most puzzling and chaotic events in NFL history.
It all began in February of 2019, when Antonio Brown demanded a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers after getting into multiple verbal altercations with Steelers teammates and staff, and even decided to sit out a week of practice prior to a potentially playoff clinching week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals back in December of the previous year. People close to the situation revealed that at one point, Brown even threw a football at Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a dispute.
“The altercation that led Antonio Brown’s benching last week was with Ben Roethlisberger,” said NFL reporter Jason La Canfora via Twitter. “I’m told it was fairly ugly and the WR was totally in the wrong. He went AWOL essentially for the 3rd time this season dating back to training camp.”
Antonio was granted his wish, and on March 10th, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in return for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2019 fifth-round pick. On top of the trade, the Raiders also immediately handed the star wide out a 3 year, 50 million-dollar contract, including 30 million in guarantees, making him the highest paid receiver in the NFL at the time. Little did the Raiders know that this trade would end up being nothing but a media headache.
The Antonio Brown Conundrum
It may have been a new location for Brown, but it was almost as if he never left Pittsburgh. From the second he flew in to training camp (yes, flew, as in a hot air balloon) there was all eyes on Antonio Brown, but not for the reasons you may have expected.
The ‘helmet saga’ as it was dubbed, began on August 9th, when the league office informed Brown that the helmet he had worn for the duration of his career was no longer approved to be worn. This only drew more media coverage to Brown, who had already been dealing with a bizarre injury to his feet which was caused by wearing improper footwear in a cryogenic chamber. Brown refused to switch his helmet, and immediately filed a grievance against the NFL (twice), both of which were dismissed. At one point, Brown even stated he would not play in the upcoming season unless his helmet issue was resolved.
Fans got to watch this happen from the comfort of their own home, as the Oakland Raiders were chosen to be featured on HBO Sports’ critically acclaimed docu-series “Hard Knocks” a weekly program that follows an unsuccessful NFL team’s training camp and preseason as they try to improve their team. Brown stole the show, as the camera crew followed him extensively, and at times, almost tried to make the viewer feel sympathetic towards Brown. The way the series played out made you believe the worst was over. Eventually, Antonio found a new helmet, and everyone was excited to see him finally rock the silver and black. That was, until Antonio got himself into even more trouble.
During Brown’s grievance with the NFL, he failed to come to practice on two occasions, both of which he was fined for by GM Mike Mayock. Brown was outraged by the fines, and took to social media to express his feelings.
“When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now, Devil is a lie,” stated Brown via his Instagram Story. “Everyone got to pay this year so we clear @Raiders”.
When Brown reported to practice on that Wednesday, he immediately confronted Mayock about the fines. This led to a very heated verbal altercation, where Brown reportedly called his GM a “cracker” and became very confrontational, attacking him with cuss words, and even punting a football across the room, telling Mayock to “fine me for that”. Brown left the facility immediately after, and the Raiders intended to suspend him. This is where Antonio Brown’s short time with the Raiders would come to an end. On that Friday night, Brown posted a private phone conversation between himself and Head Coach Jon Gruden, in which Gruden begged the receiver to “just play football”. It was on this same Friday night that the team fined Antonio over 215,000 dollars for conduct detrimental to the team. This in turn, voided his guaranteed 30 million dollars in salary, meaning he was no longer to receive this money. He was also informed that he was not entitled to termination pay in the event of his release.
The Raiders saga for Brown on Saturday, September 7th. He took to his infamous Instagram and posted an image with the words “You are gonna piss a lot of people off when you start doing what’s best for you”. In the caption, Brown simply stated “release me @Raiders”. The Raiders granted Brown his wish, and within a few hours, Brown was no longer an Oakland Raider. In a shocking turn of events, Brown signed with the New England Patriots mere hours later, finalizing a 1-year, 15 million dollar contract that included 9 million in guarantees. Once again, when everything seemed to be going in a positive direction, things immediately took a turn for the worse.
The Antonio Brown Conundrum
On September 10th, only one day after officially signing with New England, it became public that Antonio Brown was being accused of rape in a lawsuit against him. The allegations came from a woman by the name of Britney Taylor whom Brown attended college with, and between 2017 and 2018 had worked as his trainer. Taylor claims Brown sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions, to which Brown immediately denied, despite leaked text messages and emails in which he appeared to brag about assaulting Taylor.
“Mr. Brown denies each and every allegation in the lawsuit,” stated attorney Darren Heitner, one of the lawyers defending him in the case. “He will pursue all legal remedies to not only clear his name but to also protect other professional athletes against false accusations”.
In light of the allegations, many expected for the Patriots to immediately release Brown, however they did not.
In an official statement regarding the incident, the Patriots stated that “We are aware of the civil lawsuit that was filed earlier today against Antonio Brown, as well as the response by Antonio’s representatives. We take these allegations very seriously. 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.”
And no further comment would they make, as Brown’s roster spot seemed safe after he remained on the team, and even played in the Patriots’ week 2 victory over the Miami Dolphins, recording 4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Strangely enough, Brown was released five days after this, on September 20th.
“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,” said the Patriots when asked for an official statement.
Brown, once again, took to social media to address his release. His tone seemed almost comedic, saying things like “Just got fired on a Friday”. Two days later, Brown began ranting about the NFL as a whole, calling out Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his former teammate Ben Roethlisberger, implying there were double standards that existed due to former chargers brought against the two. Thanks to these tweets, the Patriots are now voiding Brown’s 9 million in guarantees due to a clause in his contract that prohibits him from taking any action that “materially undermines the public’s respect for” the team.
“Will not be playing in the @NFL anymore,” Brown tweeted. “These owners can cancel deals do whatever they want at anytime we will see if the @NFLPA hold them accountable sad they can just void guarantees anytime going on 40m 2 months will see if they pay up !”
While it still remains unknown whether or not Brown will be placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list or not, (this would prevent Brown from practicing or playing for any team), the wide receiver has stated multiple times he is done playing in the NFL. The NFL has also taken many steps to ensure they properly handle the situation, such as a sit-down meeting with Brown’s accuser. At this time, Brown is currently filing a grievance against the NFL for roughly 40 million dollars he feels he is owed from his time as a member of the Raiders and Patriots.
Antonio Brown’s story will certainly go down as one of the most puzzling, yet infamous in all of NFL history. A player with all the talent in the world, but no team to call home, and seemingly nobody on his side. Whether or not Brown will ever play again is a very challenging question to answer, but it’s hard to see a world where the seven-time Pro Bowler never takes the field again. Only Antonio Brown truly knows what he is thinking, and only time will tell if we ever see him light up the field again.