Does Antonio Brown have a point?

Antonio Brown runs down field in practice.

SPORTSILLUSTRATED.COM

Antonio Brown runs down field in practice.

Devon Greene, Editor-in-chief

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Dramatic, hardheaded, stubborn, head case. These are all words that have been used to describe Antonio Brown over his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders (maybe.)

The mythos around Brown grows by the day as he in in jeopardy of losing around $30 million in guaranteed money from his current contract with the Raiders. Last Wednesday, Brown got in a shouting match with Raiders’ general manager Mike Mayock after Brown was sent a notice of a $13,000 fine for skipping practice. This most recent outburst is only the latest instance of Brown’s shenanigans over his career.

In 2017, Brown found himself in hot water when he decided to do his best Logan Paul impression and whipped out his phone in the locker room to live stream the locker room celebration on Facebook after the Steelers’ victory over the New England Patriots. This put him in even deeper hot water with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin who Brown had already been involved in disputes with in the past. Brown’s Steeler career was just as bumpy going forward as he skipped practices, got into more arguments with Roethlisberger and even threw footballs at his teammates.

Yet, in February 2019, Brown decided that his time in the black and gold was up. He posted to his social media accounts that his time was up in the Steel City and said it was time to move on. The only problem with this was, he posted his goodbye with three years left on his contract in Pittsburgh. It all worked out in Brown’s favor when he was traded to the Raiders a month later.

We’ve all heard the old proverb, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Brown was excited for the change of scenery and I think most NFL fans were excited to see what he and Derek Carr would do together during their last season in Oakland before the move to Las Vegas. Before he even suited up for Raiders, Brown got into a spat with the NFL when they told the receiver that he must use a different helmet after his old one was deemed unsafe by a safety committee. Brown’s response was more shocking than the end of Fight Club. He said that he would retire if he couldn’t use his old helmet. Since then, he’s appealed to the NFL twice to try to get his old helmet approved for the upcoming season and they’ve both fallen flat. All that came after Brown was unable to practice due to a severe case of hypothermia on his foot which left the skin on his foot peeling off. It seems like Brown can do no right as of late, but I think it’s important to look at his perspective too.

Shea Serrano, No. 1 New York Times best-selling author and columnist for The Ringer, hosted a podcast last year entitled “Villains.” In this podcast, Serrano presented some of the worst villains in film history like Amy Dunne from “Gone Girl” or Reagan McNeil from “The Exorcist.” I bring this up because Serrano presented a new idea that many people don’t think about when watching those films, “Maybe they had a point.”I’ve decided to look at Brown like these various Villains Serrano brought up in his podcast.

In the mysterious case of Brown’s helmet, I think it’s pretty easy to relate to when you break it down to the simplest terms. I’m sure all of us have something we’ve grown comfortable with over the years and would feel uncomfortable without. I don’t wear glasses, but for those who do, imagine if you were told that you were unable to use your specific pair of glasses that you had been using for years and the new pair of glasses that you were being told to wear, obstructed your vision, leaving you unable to move efficiently, the way you had become accustomed to.

For Brown’s severe case of hypothermia, there really isn’t much fans can complain about when we try to criticize an athlete’s training and heath regimen. Obviously, Brown could’ve and probably should’ve had people around him to tell him about the dangers of cryotherapy and the importance of wearing the right footwear, but athletes must do whatever they can in order to stay in peak physical condition so they can play at their best. When the report came out about Brown’s feet, his reputation in the past was the only reason that this story gained any traction and in this case, any gripe fans or experts had about it was out of line.

On Brown’s exit from PIttsburgh, I propose a question. When is a breakup in sports ever pretty? My most clear examples don’t come from the NFL but the NBA. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and so many more have all had their jerseys burned, posters ripped up and character criticised because of decisions that they made that they deemed best for their career (Durant is still a snake though.) Brown had reached his limit in Pittsburgh and it’s understandable that he wanted a change of scenery in order to regain some of the love that he had lost from the game.

As for the Facebook live stream, that’s a big ol’ yikes. I think Brown’s insistence of his social media presence is his biggest Achilles’ heel. It will continue to bite him in the butt until someone close to him finally gets it through his head that he needs to focus more on football than his impact on Instagram or Twitter.

Brown is one of the best receivers in the league when he is focused and ready to play football, and it’s a shame that we’re at the point we’re at now (especially since I drafted him onto my fantasy team.) Hopefully, he can get his contract dispute cleared up with the Raiders for the sake of the Raiders, fans and fantasy team owners.

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