“Please stop this s— and just play football. How hard is that?” an exhausted Jon Gruden, head coach of the Oakland Raiders, asked Antonio Brown in a phone call recorded by Brown.
Unfortunately for the Raiders and Gruden, Brown didn’t stop and instead became a gift that kept on giving for NFL commentators and early morning sports talk shows.
Brown dominated sports headlines in what was a summer crammed with drama. From cryogenized feet, refusal to follow the NFL’s new helmet policy, calling Raiders general manager Mike Mayock a “cracker” to the final nail in the coffin—an Instagram post with a caption that ended with, “release me @raiders,” many believed Brown orchestrated his way out from Oakland.
In the end, he got to his preferred destination from the start—six-time Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots.
While Brown is no longer the Raiders’ problem, the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has become another thorn in the side of sports media and how it covers controversial athletes.
Brown’s confusing fiasco took a disturbing turn Sept. 10 when Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, accused him of sexual assault on three seperate occasions as part of a civil lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida. Taylor provided emails sent to her by a seemingly proud and boastful Brown after the alleged assault and were later released to the public.
An anonymous woman followed with another accusation against Brown six days later. This time alleging Brown stood behind the woman naked with only a hand towel covering his genitals as she was kneeling and painting a mural in Brown’s Pittsburgh residence.
Brown denied all claims.
After Taylor stepped forward, the NFL considered placing Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list where Brown would be paid but not allowed to play in games.
The NFL decided Brown would not be placed on the commissioner’s list ahead of Brown’s debut as a Patriot last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, where Brown was serenaded with cheers from New England fans in Miami for every reception. This culminated in his first touchdown of the season being met with a roar and embrace by fans as he jumped into the stands.
The NFL cited its decision was based on how Brown was not under criminal investigation. However, the league has opened an investigation and has since interviewed Taylor for more than 10 hours Monday.
After all of this, why is Brown still playing? Obviously, the NFL has every right to keep Brown off the exemption list and to be wary of setting a precedent of placing someone accused in civil court on paid leave, but Brown has set a pattern of behavior that suggests he’s unfit to be in the league anyway.
As long as Brown suits up to play, he’s a distraction—not to the Patriots or even to the game of football, because that hardly matters at all—but to the accusations and ongoing investigation.
Tune into ESPN or any other sports network and you’ll see analysts rave about how Brown fits in New England’s “arsenal,” how Brown is the perfect “weapon” alongside Tom Brady. These analysts touch upon the accusations at the top of their segments because they have to; they get it out of the way to get to the real subject of their segments—meaningless stats and numbers.
Meanwhile, as Brown is lauded for his performance and abilities, Taylor becomes an uncomfortable subject. Her voice is muffled while she opens her personal life to criticism and doubt.
Some might say Brown on the field and Brown off the field can be covered in different manners, but can fans really separate the Brown they read about in the New York Times with the Brown they cheer on Sundays?
The disgusting emails, the troubling pattern of behavior, it’s clear, Brown is not someone deserving of praise. If New England cared about anything else other than football, which is doubtful, they’d release Brown. Release him, Patriots.