Despite his absence on the field, the power of AB — and how he transcends the game, captures the curiosity of Americans and breaks the mold — continues to flourish.
A recent Google trends report confirms that Antonio Brown was the most searched athlete in the United States in 2019.
The controversial and jobless All-Pro wide receiver, who spent 2019 battling with media, players, and owners, bouncing to multiple teams, displaying schizophrenic tendencies and providing a show of social media antics, was also the most searched person.
Look at those names. Brown’s one of two athletes on the list. That speaks volumes to his personal impact on the NFL this season. And he’s not even playing!
The People vs. The Narrative: Google Trends
We always talk about the “most popular athletes.” Years ago, people polls or a small body of experts and a number of other factors decided this. There was no way to truly quantify one’s popularity unless you asked every person in the world.
Then along came social media which reaches 3 billion people across the globe in a few computer clicks. Social network penetration is constantly increasing worldwide and as of January 2019 stood at 45 percent and rising.
Now, all we really have to do is wait for Google Trends to reveal to the country who its most trending people are. Popularity is a strange beast because some people are popular because they are beloved and others because they evoke a hypnotic range of emotions in various people. For various reasons.
Brown is one of those enigmas. Despite the criticism he’s received for the way he handled his NFL career and some off the field transgressions that complicated and further compromised his situation, people are enthralled with him and constantly googling to find out what AB is doing next.
When he implied that he was just as big as the game itself, he was kind of telling the truth. He’s more than a football player. He said that. Google numbers prove it. People are just as interested in Antonio Brown, the person as they are AB the football player. Even more so in fact, because he didn’t rise to this level of popularity until he started cutting up and was basically jettisoned from the league.
The key element here is his social media presence. And why it is still the gift and the curse for athletes, who are held to much higher social standards than entertainers for some reason.
Saying something honest but regrettable on social media is one of Antonio Brown’s strong suits and he does it with regularity.
Let me get my lil bread get out y’all way @NFLPA we know y’all stealing
— AB (@AB84) December 11, 2019
His Own Man…Own Brand
It’s obvious that people are clamoring for more AB and he knows it. That’s why he puts on such a show and refuses to abide by the NFL’s rules of decorum. Refuses to become the faceless talent rocking the helmet of a team that doesn’t acknowledge his juice.
The NFL and corporations put guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and Baker Mayfield and Dak Prescott in all of these commercials. It’s obvious that they want the quarterbacks to be the face of the league. The NFL is a Peyton Manning, Papa John kind of league.
Should of never been drafted before Lamar Jackson what a big scam https://t.co/4Egf0Z05G2
— AB (@AB84) September 28, 2019
The NFL definitely doesn’t want a diva receiver to become bigger than the league. They don’t want any social media mold breakers in the mix. They want to be able to control the narrative by pushing certain lightning-rod personalities to the background or out of the league. Those guys who can rally the masses without the NFL’s help. See Colin Kaepernick.
The League wants to create a perception that fans don’t gravitate to those kinds of rogue personalities.
Then, there’s always racial optics.
Guess all mighty @nfl can hold players out against there will no criminal charges pending nothing but
A Caucasian player gets a domestic go to jail still out there playing targeted hate against us everywhere my peeps
— AB (@AB84) December 11, 2019
It’s been proven that superstar characters like AB — especially in this social media age — are what make the league go.
And Google trends support this, but the NFL hates it.
So let’s backtrack again.
Social Media Justice
Despite the controversial way he bulldogged it out of Pittsburgh with a trade to the Raiders, got the bag from Oakland and then forced his way to New England before first kickoff, then was sued for sexual harassment, folks are still craving for some AB. On top of that, he’s taking his battle with the NFL straight to the people. He won’t allow his character to be judged by the NFL alone.
In a twisted way, his spotlight…hotseat…whatever, also helps the NFL stay in the news and any kind of news that draws eyes to the NFL helps their bottom line.
When he went to the Patriots, all of a sudden they were Super Bowl favorites, and when he was dismissed from the team, Brady’s Super Bowl hopes went out the door with him.
You might think Antonio Brown is a straight nut job. That’s your prerogative, but AB knows his worth. No amount of money the owners pay him can equal the amount of money he’s made for them by being himself and always finding a way to grab the headlines or create a firestorm on social media.
— AB (@AB84) December 11, 2019
These days, AB is pleading his case for a return to the NFL daily on social media, on the premise that he’s being blackballed now. His beef isn’t with the fans. He even offered an apology in between talking mad sh*t, but that’s the passive-aggressive masterpiece that God created in AB.
Mr.Kraft I apologize sincerely to you and your organization! All I wanted to be was an asset to the organization; sorry for the bad media and the drama ! Thank you sincerely AB pic.twitter.com/oWJCwkrpjk
— AB (@AB84) November 19, 2019
It’s clear that the players either love him or hate him. Either way, they all want him on their team at the end of the day. The fans appreciate his honesty and availability via Twitter and IG.
Brown has that “it” factor and he’s an intriguing personality. He’s not just a diva receiver. If he was a world-famous musician, nobody would care. In 2019 he became a national phenomenon, a power brand that has a magnetic attraction to drama and dynamic performance. He’s a superstar and the most Google-friendly player in a league that won’t let him ball.