Image Credit: Getty Images
When the Steelers willingly parted with All Pro receiver Antonio Brown for a third and fifth round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, it was a sign that Pittsburgh wanted a fresh start on the field and, more importantly, in the locker room.
AB is deserving of first-round compensation, but the Steelers were so done that they quickly agreed to the Raiders’ offer.
That should have been a sign for Oakland to pause before signing the agreement and then quickly giving Brown a new contract, but his talent and name outweighed the warning signs, so they moved forward.
— AB (@AB84) March 10, 2019
The new look Raiders then agreed to appear on “Hard Knocks”, giving HBO a supercharged season with big personalities, unfiltered mouths and big ratings potential.
While the show was an immediate success, the trade for the Raiders hasn’t been as rewarding, unless you count PR currency as the value.
Antonio Brown has made a mockery of the situation, almost daring the Raiders to cut him loose multiple times, and the team flinching each time.
The latest incident occurred last night when AB, as is the norm, took to social media and posted a Nike-like commercial entitled “This is my life. Ain’t no more games”, portraying him as a person, complete with family interaction and training visuals. That would have been fine, except that he included a private recording of a conversation between himself, his agent and coach Gruden over the video.
This morning, the Raiders announced that they fined him over $215,000 for conduct detrimental to the team and voided the $30 million guaranteed in his contract. This is after AB had apologized for initially confronting GM Matt Mayock and then following up with another taunt at Mayock, kicking a ball and saying “fine me for that”, which they did.
In addition to fining Antonio Brown $215,073.53 for conduct detrimental to the team that voided $29.125 million worth of guaranteed money in his contract, the Raiders sent Brown a letter that he no longer will be entitled to termination pay if they release him, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2019
AB wasted no time in responding and going at it again, this time on IG.
View this post on Instagram
And that’s fine ! I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mines.Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years. “I’m not mad at anyone. I’m just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong.” Release me @raiders #NOMore #theyputblindersonahorseforareason #NoMoreFake
“I’m not mad at anyone. I’m just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong.” wrote AB, ending the post with “Release me @Raiders” and hashtags like #NOMore and #NoMoreFake.
Once again, AB has made everything about himself, showing that the “I” in Antonio is bigger than the “I” in team.
The problem, of course, is that there is no “I” in team. Never has been.
But this isn’t something new when it comes to Brown. It’s just that he’s decided to turn the volume up as he has the spotlight to himself now, and he’s refusing to let it go.
AB brought fans into the locker room when he secretly recorded a postgame locker room celebration after the Steelers beat the Chiefs in January of 2017, a scene where Coach Mike Tomlin went off, not knowing that he was becoming fodder for the Patriots and social media.
“We spotted those a**holes a day and a half. They played yesterday, our game got moved to tonight,” exclaimed Tomlin. “We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the F’n morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their ass. But you ain’t got to tell them we’re coming.
“Keep a low profile, and let’s get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That’s our story.”
Keeping a low profile isn’t Brown’s style, but he immediately apologized to Tomlin and the team after the moment went viral, claiming he was caught up in the moment and rationalizing his decision as “emotions and genuine excitement” at the time.
The team fined him $10,000 for the incident and they went on to lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game the following weekend.
Ironically, a few weeks after the loss, the Steelers rewarded Brown with a massive contract extension to the tune of $73 million over four years, making him the highest paid receiver at the time.
— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) February 27, 2017
Things seemed to quiet down after that. AB went on to have what I believed could have been an NFL MVP season, dominating secondaries and making big play after big play each game for the Steelers, helping lead the team to a 13-3 record. Although they were shocked by the Jaguars in the playoffs, AB’s play and importance couldn’t be denied.
Brown became the cover boy for Madden 19, and things looked promising for the team once again heading into the 2018 season.
But like clockwork, the drama around AB ensued once again, this time with a threat to fight ESPN’s Jesse Washington over a story he wrote about Brown.
“@JesseWashington wait to I see you bro we gone see what your jaw look like,” said Brown in a now deleted Tweet.
Brown issued a statement through the Steelers’ PR team, apologizing for his threat.
“I made a mistake in judgment with my tweet last week, and I apologize for that. It is not OK to threaten anyone and I need to be better spiritually and professionally. Though I do not agree with the negative parts of the story about my personal life, I need to have better control over my actions to use social media as a way to engage with my fans, rather than use it improperly.”
Washington accepted the apology, deleted his retweet of Brown’s threatening tweet and everyone moved on.
After a disappointing 15 games, the Steelers needed to win their final game and have the Browns beat the Ravens in order to make the playoffs. With such a big game on tap, everyone was sure to be focused on beating the Bengals, so nothing would distract them from their goal of making the post-season.
That nothing became Brown.
In what would be the final straw for the Steelers, Brown had a blow up with QB Ben Roethlisberger at practice and also complained about soreness in his knee that week. He was supposed to take an MRI that Friday but Brown went AWOL instead. When his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he was ready to go on Sunday, Tomlin wasn’t having it.
“It doesn’t work like that,” replied Tomlin.
AB was benched and the Steelers would win the game without him. Afterwards, the team watched the final few minutes of the Browns game on Heinz field with their fans. And while the Browns couldn’t get the job done, Pittsburgh had their team on the field, absent one player.
Pittsburgh was preparing to move on from the talented yet troublesome receiver, but they were doing it the right way, and that meant not doing it through the media.
“I’m gonna address him [Brown] and the circumstances but to be quite honest with you, we’re going to information gather and deal with it like we do in all circumstances,” said Tomlin. “We’re gonna deal with it appropriately and in-house.”
But Brown was living his best life on social media, posting creative messages and doing a social media tour with former teammates like James Harrison.
Happy New Year. Be great. pic.twitter.com/QLna1LRncL
— AB (@AB84) January 2, 2019
Some in the media have said that Brown’s current behavior isn’t indicative of things from his past. Others have begun to question his mental state, and whether the many blows he’s suffered to his head have now affected his behavior. In the current debates surrounding the effects of CTE, that’s a valid concern and question, one that we might not find the answer to anytime soon.
Yet the writing has been on the wall for those paying attention to see. The Steelers saw it, but the Raiders were willing to deflect their vision to the shiny image of Brown in black and silver, and the overall attention, attraction and results he could generate for their team.
One only has to look at his final few years with the Steelers to see how things would progress with the Raiders. Big contract, social media takes, public arguments with the team, more social media gaffes, reconciliation and then more social media productions to explain his character while exposing his team.
It’s a pattern whose existence was certified last night when Brown posted his video.
In an era where athletes are flexing their muscle in their fight for proper compensation, individual expression, social justice and independence in a system which has long restricted their fight, Brown’s fight to be his own person is understandable. Yet it crosses the line when he continues to do it at the open expense of his team.
But Antonio Brown is Antonio Brown. Right or wrong, if you want him, be prepared for the drama and baggage that he brings with him. If you recognize the pattern and choose to move forward, the rest is on you.