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Brown Sparks Controversy in the NFL

by Ben Jansen

Professional athletes are no strangers to the occasional saga. Whether it be Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, or Dennis Rodman, no controversial athlete is the same. While Antonio Brown may not be as controversial, the use of social media by both Brown, reporters, and fans has made this story one of the most talked about issues in sports today.

Antonio Brown was traded from the National Football League’s (NFL), Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders in March, after voicing his displeasure with the Steelers organization. At first it seemed like it would be smooth sailing for Brown in Oakland, as he reportedly impressed coaches and teammates during OTAs in May. Brown also praised head coach, Jon Gruden, saying, “It’s never a dull day with Coach. Always challenging, always high energy and always detailed and fundamental in regards to our assignment.”

However, it seemed like everything started to change at the beginning of training camp. After a mishap during a cryotherapy, Brown missed the first practice with frostbite on both of his feet and was put on the non-football injury list. The next day, Brown made a spectacle by arriving to practice in a hot air balloon despite not participating.

On Tuesday, July 30, Brown made his debut in practice. Reports said he was dominant and video surfaced of him making one handed catches on the field. The hype didn’t last long though, as the NFL banned the helmet Brown uses, and Brown decided to sit out for two weeks in protest of the ban.

After the two weeks passed, Brown returned to training camp, with Gruden and general manager, Mike Mayock, announcing that they support him. After returning to the team, Brown was once again the highlight of the team on the field, but did not participate in any of the preseason games.

Sunday, Aug. 18 was when things started to get out of control. Brown had filed a grievance against the NFL for banning his helmet, and ultimately lost the grievance which forced him to use a new helmet. Brown once again left training camp in protest, this time without the support of his general manager. Mayock fined Brown $40,000 and said, “from our perspective it’s time for him to be all-in or all-out.”

Once again, Brown filed another grievance that was unsuccessful, but this time his agent announced that he would find and endorse a new helmet rather than fighting to wear his old one. After this, Brown posted on his Instagram story two letters notifying him of his fines. Brown captioned the post, “when your own team want to hate on you too.”

This lead to extreme tension between Brown and the rest of the organization. Brown began skipping parts of practices, playing half heartedly, yelling at coaches, and getting into an altercation with Mayock calling him “a cracker.” The next day the Raiders announced Brown would be suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

The day after this, Brown returned to the team facility and issued what was described by sources as an emotional apology. Upon hearing the apology, Gruden retconned the suspension and announced that the plan was for Brown to play in the season opener. Brown had other ideas, and posted a video of a phone call between him and an unknowingly taped Jon Gruden to YouTube.

After that stunt, the Raiders fined Brown again, this time for $215,000 and voided his $29 million in guarantees. Brown then released a statement saying there was no way he would play without his guaranteed money, and requested a release on Instagram. 

The Raiders then granted this request, releasing Brown from his contract and making him a free agent. Within 10 hours of his release, Brown’s agent informed reporters that Brown will sign with the New England Patriots on a one-year, $15 million deal. 

Less than a week after signing with the Patriots, a female trainer named Britney Taylor, who had worked with Brown in the past, filed a lawsuit against Brown accusing him of three  counts of sexual assualt or rape. Days later, Brown’s new helmet company, Xenith, announced that they have cut all ties with him and he is no longer an ambassador to their brand.

In week two of the NFL season, Brown made his 2019 debut with the Patriots catching four  passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. The next day, the NFL interviewed Britney Taylor, which began branching out as an investigation into the accusations. Brown was then accused of a different case of sexual misconduct by an artist who worked with him while designing his home. 

Two days later Nike dropped Brown as an ambassador, a company spokesperson told the Boston Globe, “Antonio Brown is no longer a Nike athlete.” On Friday, Sept. 20, the Patriots released Brown from his contract less than two weeks after signing him.

Two days after his release Brown took to Twitter to comment on the situation. He said he will not play in the NFL again by his own choosing, and mentioned how people in the league such as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, and Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, have had similar sexual based charges brought upon them in the past.

Finally, Brown wrapped up the controversial three months by posting on social media announcing that he would be re-enrolling in classes at Central Michigan University.

Ben Jansen can be reached at Benjamin.jansen@spartans.ut.edu

 

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