The Cautionary Tale of Antonio Brown

Curtis Gaines III, Staff Writer

Antonio Brown // Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

The Madden cover athlete is usually given to the most popular player in the league from the previous season. 

For Madden NFL 19, released in August of 2018, that spot was given to wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who at the time was Antonio Brown. A year and three teams later, Brown is currently a free agent and is facing multiple lawsuits including two charges of sexual assault. 

Although he is one of the best players at his position, it seems highly unlikely that he will be on another NFL roster this year. So what happened to the sixth round talent out of Central Michigan?

Antonio Brown was drafted as the 195th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was drafted in a position where he would have to prove himself every time he took the field. Brown did exactly that by improving his receptions, yards and touchdowns gradually over his first five seasons. 

His statistics would peek during the 2015 NFL season when he recorded 136 catches for 1,834 yards and ten touchdowns over a span of 15 games. This season cemented his status as being one of the league’s most lethal threats in the passing game. This past off-season, as many people speculate, is where his fall from superstardom began.

During the 2015 playoffs against their rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, Brown took an unprotected blow to the head and was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Over the course of the next few seasons, Brown was involved in several minor off the field controversies. By the end of the 2018 season, the damage was done.

Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders and signed a new contract, making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league. 

During the off-season, Brown was involved in several off the field controversies. Brown’s controversy includes frostbite on his feet from cryotherapy and refusing to practice because he could not wear his helmet which prompted him to miss several key dates with the team. After a confrontation with his team’s general manager after posting his fine on Instagram, he was released by the Raiders.

That same day, Brown would sign with the New England Patriots. Brown, in theory, took a pay cut but had the opportunity to win a Super Bowl. 

Around the time Brown got signed, he was accused of sexually assaulting two women. Along with the accusations, leaked messages were released between Brown and his accusers. 

Those messages had Brown threatening their lives, berating them and even threatening the child of one of his accusers. Those messages led to Brown being released by the Patriots, only 11 days after he first got signed by the team. Two days after his release, Brown announced that he was done playing in the NFL, due to his almost-guaranteed money from the Raiders and Patriots being voided.

In the wake of his apparent retirement, many fans and analysts have speculated that mental health has been an issue with these off-the-field incidents. Effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) have been used as a scapegoat for Brown’s behavior. CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated injuries to the head.

Although it is plausible, CTE can only be diagnosed after the person dies. A person suffering from CTE would only start to notice the effects of it until later on in life. 

Brown’s former teammates from the Steelers have said that he has always acted this way, but the organization always kept incidents hidden from the media. 

What is clear, however, is that Brown was in a position that many people dream to be in. He was not expected to make it as far as he has. And he’s only done that through years of dedication and desire. 

In a span of about three months, he has been so much of a team distraction that currently no other team wants to sign him despite still being in his prime years. All these things happened right after he got a massive contract from the Oakland Raiders. 

Could ego have gotten involved? From an outsider’s perspective, it definitely seems that way. Brown lost out on $30 million and an opportunity to potentially win a Super Bowl. Instead, Brown would most likely sit out the rest of the season. He will have to prove himself again next season, if he wants to.

If there’s anything to learn from the Antonio Brown fiasco is that character goes a long way. Brown will always be remembered as an exceptional talent that burned bridges with former teammates, coaches and organizations. 

Hopefully, Antonio Brown can come back to the league one day with a newfound focus and respect for the game that he has the privilege to play.

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