It’s not everyday that we cover sporting events on Nerdbot, unless it has to do with Quidditch or something. But it’s also not everyday that one of the biggest names in the NFL takes off half his uniform in the middle of the game, jumps around in the opponent’s end zone and then completely leaves the stadium. Those are the events that took place on January 2nd, 2022 when Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown had a meltdown, and potentially ended his career in the NFL.
Despite his talent on the field, Brown has a history of controversy within and outside of the NFL. For starters, there’s his most recent incident before his effectively quitting the team where it was discovered he was using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to avoid safety protocols. This resulted in him being suspended for three games. January 2nd’s battle against the New York Jets was his second game back from having served that suspension. In a way, he was lucky to even be playing again considering Buccaneers’ head coach Bruce Arians had previously stated due to Brown’s history, he’d be “one and done” in terms of misconduct.
In an odd twist, it kind of was a “one and done” situation; just not exactly in the way Arians backpedaled on. Something happened on the sidelines that got Brown into an agitated state. According to CBS Sports, Arians had called Brown to the bench, and when he later prompted Brown to go back onto the field, the wide receiver refused. Allegedly this is when Arians told him to leave the field. Whether or not this was meant as a complete dismissal or firing will probably come to light in the future, but it certainly became a termination later that day as Coach Arians stated after the game that Antonio Brown was “no longer a Buc.”
If things did indeed play out like this, then it’s possible that Brown was upset about being benched to begin with due to needing to reach certain performance incentives. The same CBS Sports report notes that Brown did indeed have incentives that could have earned him at least another million dollars if he had reached them. Brown could have seen the benching as a slap in the face to him trying to earn that bonus and retaliated by not going back out when Arians wanted him to. Again, it’s a POSSIBLE explanation, but we don’t know for sure.
And you know what? Good riddance. The reason why Brown was on a “one and done” disciplinary action was because of a litany of issues and situations he’d got himself into across several years and several teams. Let’s quickly go down the list chronologically. After nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010 to 2018 he allegedly got into an argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and started skipping practices. He then got traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2019 where he continually made an issue of not being able to wear his old helmet, threatening to retire if he couldn’t continue to use it. Ultimately, he wouldn’t end up playing with the team at all thanks to continued arguments with the team’s general manager, including threatening to strike him.
This lead to Brown leaving the Raiders and immediately going over to the New England Patriots. And that’s when the allegations of sexual assault started coming to light. To make a long story short, Brown was accused of assaulting a personal trainer while also sending threatening text messages to another woman who rejected his sexual advances. Because the former allegations were outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges, Brown wasn’t arrested but the Patriots did cut him from the team after one game and the NFL suspended him for eight weeks in 2020.
Why was he even signed to the Buccaneers then after all of this? Partly because Arians worked with him previously on the Steelers and also because Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady wanted him. Brady was friendly enough with Brown to even allow him to live with him. It’s not surprising that Brady would want a talented receiver to throw to, and when it comes to winning, sometimes people are willing to overlook off-field issues for on-field performance.
In the wake of Brown’s exit, Brady, in a post-game interview, made a plea for empathy and support for Brown while acknowledging that they would no longer be on the same team. One could easily respond to that though by asking where Brown’s empathy was for others when he was walking around them, pretending to be vaccinated and sporting a fake vaccine card. Where was Brown’s empathy when he threatened someone via text? That’s not to say that Brown isn’t possibly in need of psychological help, but the NFL is a better place without him.
This is very likely, the end of Brown’s career. The number of problems he has created for himself are too much and too big to ignore. If a team needs to be a well oiled machine, Brown is a complete threat to that and could easily cause further complications by butting heads with others, or refusing to comply with league rules. A team would have to be desperate to try and invest time and money into Brown again with no guarantee of return. There’s no doubt the man can still play the game amazingly well, but what if he were to suddenly stop again just because he felt slighted?
It was shocking to see Brown leave the field like he did to terminate his time with the Buccaneers, but once you look at some of his other actions, it’s not quite so surprising. In the end, his final act as a Buc can be filed under the same word as his sporting a fake vaccination card: “undignified.”
[Editor’s note: there are now claims that Brown was “too injured to play,” prompting his refusal to go back onto the field.]