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NFL

Opinion: AB’s Shot-Calling Is His Way Of Fighting The Oppressive NFL Culture

It might be premature to dismiss AB's actions as purely egotistical nonsense. 

Image Credit: Getty Images

While Colin Kaepernick handles social activism in his way and Jay-Z moves into unchartered waters for Black businessmen in his own way, Antonio Brown is on the NFL front lines, in the prime of a Hall of Fame career. 

His platform is popping too. He just uses it in a different way than most and it might be premature to dismiss it as purely egotistical nonsense. 

Every time Brown bucks the system or speaks his opinion, or makes a statement that refers to him demanding that teams do things his way or no way, the world gets offended. When in actuality, Black America should be commending Brown for exercising his freedoms as passionately and militantly as his marketability allows.

It’s especially humorous when people who have never walked a day in Black skin pontificate on how African-Americans should react, feel or protest against discrimination.

The difference between Brown as compared to Kap or Jay-Z is perception. People see Brown as a spoiled, Black athlete with an ego the size of the state of California, whose only motivations are self-serving. 

I used to feel that way until Antonio Brown dropped this Tweet right here:

 

It made me think. I had to step away from my personal feelings about how Brown should be using his celebrity platform and remember the position he’s in as a Black man in America making millions of dollars a year. We tend to believe that people — especially those of color — who make more money than God should be satisfied with their wealth. They shouldn’t protest or stir up the pot with complaints or objections to the corporate, political or social structure. 

And as much as some people may hate hearing about Colin Kaepernick, his plight and what Black America and the NFL owes him, “shutting up and dribbling” (to borrow a popular right-wing phrase from Laura Ingraham) was never an option for Brown.  

I’ll agree that most people would like that guy to just shut up and play because his platform appears to be strictly, self-serving, and comes with more drama than an episode of Real Housewives. 

Brown’s media circus since joining the Raiders is hard for some folks to comprehend, like Jay-Z’s end game concerning his new entertainment and social justice agreement with Kap’s NFL enemies.  

What it really comes down to is you can’t put people in a box. In fact, Antonio Brown, Colin Kaepernick and Jay-Z are all fighting the same battle, but in different ways. AB also protests against social injustice and corporate oppression of people of color. His protests are laced in him impressing his will upon the NFL and pushing the limits of player empowerment. He rides for the players who don’t have his freedom and security by being a nuisance to the NFL, on every little detail concerning his existence in the league. 

He rides for guys like Rishard Matthews who retired with the belief that he was used and abused by an NFL system that he remained loyal too.

That’s why it’s probably just as important for Black America to support Brown with the same energy they defend Jay-Z and Colin Kaepernick. 

People love the pour on when a guy is down — especially a brother. The popular narrative says Antonio Brown is an egotistical diva, who is likened to the boy who cried wolf. Because of his litany of complaints and refusal to toe the status quo and reinforce old NFL cultures that are downright primitive in some regards, Brown is the whipping boy for media and to some, an example of player empowerment run amuck. 

Helmet Battle Represents NFL Star Fighting Against Player Oppression

When Brown fires back at the NFL for refusing to let him wear a helmet whose safety standards no longer meet regulations, in his mind, he’s bucking back against a form of corporate oppression. A continuation of the league’s mistreatment of players and an attitude of aggression and indifference towards issues that its star players deem important. 

His reaction to the decision concerning his helmet evoked some very strong words from Brown.  It seems that he is ready to sit out until the NFLPA and the League comes to some kind of agreement that is suitable to Brown and agent Drew Rosenhaus. 

To the Raiders organization and fans, it’s just more diva antics by a guy who is scaring the hell out of them. The franchise traded for Brown despite red flags that he wasn’t going to just shut up and catch footballs. 

In fact, AB is using his platform to change the culture of what’s expected from players, how they use social media to have a voice and how they use leverage to attempt to become truly free in an NFL that has been likened to the slave trade and archaic gladiator sports on many occasions. 

Frank Sinatra Status

If Brown is going to risk his life playing in the NFL, then he’s decided that he’s going to do it on his terms. The tactic is annoying to some, but it still represents a rebellion against a system that continues to blackball Colin Kaepernick and buy favor with the public through deals with influential kings of the Black community.

AB is basically trying to stay free in chains. He’s demanding respect and value. He may not use the methods that people want him to use, but when he left camp frustrated over not being allowed to wear the helmet he wants, it was a reminder that he’s not in full control of his own safety and he’s not above all NFL rules. 

For a guy so obsessed with calling his own shots, the loss could serve as inspiration for him to keep bucking the NFL and being vocal and unpredictable off the field because he knows once Week 1 hits and he starts scorching guys, all will be forgiven.

The kids still love him now. The adults just feel away about him sometimes.

Despite all of the drama, Brown’s mere presence is keeping all of the NFL news outlets focused on the Raiders. You can’t tell me his arrival hasn’t resulted in more fan and media interest, jersey and ticket sales. AB has upgraded the worth of the Raiders franchise without stepping on the field. He doesn’t need to bang his head into someone to boost the Raiders.

And he won’t compromise an inch of his respect or freedom of speech to do it. At the end of the day, the players make the game and AB never lets us forget that despite the owners constantly ignoring it. It’s his personal contribution to a war between the owners and players that still exists, but nobody wants to discuss anymore.

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