Antonio Brown knows his worth and the Steelers organization just can’t deal with the new age Black athlete.
There was a time when the public believed that Black athletes who were able to elevate their standing in society, should just be grateful for what they have. Antonio Brown largely represents the new Black athlete.
Some lack his uninhibited expression, but they share his desire to be treated as a human and not as high-priced cattle. One that refuses to take a backseat to a white player, just because society and outdated cultural philosophies say he should. Brown is a bit over-the-top, but his behavior’s part of a direct attack on rules that position the outspoken, talented Black player in the role of the villain.
It doesn’t help when legends like Larry Fitzgerald publicly say Antonio’s “going about it in the wrong way.” However, Fitzgerald is on his way out. Back in the days, players who held out for better contracts and fought to be paid fairly were considered rabble-rousers, disgruntled employees and overzealous, greedy negroes.
They still are in most cases, but superstar players like Brown don’t give a damn. They are in the financial position to refuse to play within a culture that minimizes black lives – from the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick to paying stars below market value. There is nothing rich white owners hate more than an outspoken, and prideful Black player.
Brown appeared on an ESPN interview with Jeff Darlington and says he takes no blame for the breakdown in the relationship.
“I just took responsibility for my situation. I didn’t point a finger. I didn’t make anyone look bad. I didn’t throw no stones…Guys like yo, he left the game. He did this. Yeah I left the game. Im standing with guys that my coach just told them I quit on them. ..For me it was all about being a professional, taking in the negativity, sharing my positive and seeing him confirm my positive to show everybody what it is.”
This came a few days after Brown appeared on LeBron James’ HBO “The Shop” and spoke about his deteriorating relationship with Steelers and quarterback Big Ben. Also, why Brown was uncomfortable existing in a situation where the white quarterback was elevated, held to different standards than the rest of the team.
It also gave you insight into head coach Mike Tomlin’s relationship with his players and how he mishandled internal conflicts which led to guys like Brown feeling that the head coach lacked integrity as well.
It’s a culture that Tomlin and the owners have to take responsibility for. Brown was given fuel for his fire a few weeks ago when the mentality of the organization was put on front street.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert supported quarterback Ben Roethlisberger criticizing others in the organization. Colbert said, among other things, that Roethlisberger has “52 kids under him” and that “if our players were smart, they’d listen to him” when he calls them out. On Friday, Colbert tried to clean it up by saying he meant that there was “tremendous value” in what Roethlisberger has to say and not to belittle others on the roster….”But they’re still not the Super Bowl-winning player that Ben Roethlisberger is.”
The comment opened up another can of worms, sent social media into a frenzy and put a smile on Brown’s face because the culture of the organization was exposed by the GM in one comment. The reason why Brown doesn’t want to remain with the Steelers is multi-layered and dates back to when his own teammates criticized Le’Veon Bell’s holdout for more money.
It’s an old school culture that has worked for so long, but new age guys like Brown and Bell want no part of it. They don’t dog it on the field. They lead the league in touches at their position. They play hard and take a beating. They simply want to be paid what they are worth. Make sure that the millions and billions they have generated for NFL owners trickle down to them at a fair price.
NFL owners still mistakenly think that players will sacrifice their bodies without question and dignity for a check. The fan, with the normal job, can’t understand why Brown would want to leave a situation where he’s productive and highly paid.
When the organization announces that the only player that really matters is the quarterback — which is what Brown has been complaining about all along — it doesn’t help chemistry or show a united front. This type of public clash would never happen in an organization like New England. Tom Brady gets his ultimate respect as a leader, but the coach checks his QB at times and doesn’t rub it everyone’s face. That’s what head coaches do. If Bill Belichick can’t check Brady, then he loses the respect of everyone in the locker room, especially other star players.
This should be a lesson for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization. Antonio Brown simply played the game. He gave them enough rope to hang themselves and then he bet on himself because the reality of the situation is when you’re black in the NFL, you can get Colin Kaepernick’d at any time. Get paid Black man. Know your worth. And get your respect. Is that really too much to ask?