Tag: NFL Football

Antonio Brown thinks he’s the victim

His career won’t recover until he accepts responsibility for his actions

Antonio Brown needs to hit the reset button on a once-brilliant career. But will anyone give him a chance now? Christian Petersen/Getty Images 

By Jesse Washington

Antonio Brown needs to tackle his own problems. He’s the only one left who can do it.

The NFL’s most perplexing personality continues to evade responsibility for his mistakes, just like he leaves defenders grasping at air. Brown’s latest lapse, an altercation with the Oakland Raiders’ general manager, which led to his release Saturday, was another example of him blaming others for his errors instead of owning them.

Brown missed much of the Raiders’ training camp with strangely frostbitten feet and bizarre helmet grievances. On Wednesday, he posted a bitter Instagram message complaining about being fined for his absences, which led to him screaming at general manager Mike Mayock, being physically restrained while threatening to punch his boss in the face, and calling him a “cracker.”

Brown briefly avoided a suspension by apologizing at a team meeting Friday. But as with past mea culpas that turned to pointed fingers, he then released a tone-deaf video portraying himself as a martyr and the Raiders as the problem.

Now the NFL universe is wondering what comes next for the 31-year-old diva of delusion. Rather than accept the fact that he deserved to be punished for his behavior in Oakland, he reverted to his history of implausible deniability, which threatens to sink a Hall of Fame career.

During his nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown occasionally admitted his mistakes. After quarterback Ben Roethlisberger criticized Brown for a sideline tantrum in 2017, Brown said, “I’m glad he did what he did. He called me out.” But as Brown hijacked the Steelers in 2018 and then parachuted into Oakland, he has been increasingly defiant and irrational.

In 2016, as Brown’s touchdowns became occasions for twerking and other cartoonish celebrations, he earned the title of the best receiver in football. That also was the season when he broadcast his infamous Facebook Live video from the Steelers’ locker room after a playoff victory, violating the team’s inner sanctum and exposing head coach Mike Tomlin using embarrassing language. The following week, after the video brouhaha contributed to Pittsburgh’s loss in the AFC Championship Game, Brown refused to talk to the media.

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown warms up before an NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Aug. 15.PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Tomlin called Brown out over the video. Like Roethlisberger, he was doing his best to hold his star receiver accountable. The subtext was “grow up.” It seemed to be working, as Brown issued what sounded like a public relations-scripted apology — while his agent negotiated with the Steelers for a new contract.

Two weeks after the season ended, in a TV interview at the 2017 Super Bowl, Brown was less contrite when confronted by Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless about the touchdown antics that saddled his team with 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. “Everyone wants to celebrate your faults. They want to maximize your failures,” Brown said.

Later in that interview, he denied the fact that he refused to talk to the media after the playoff loss. Sharpe tried to box Brown in like a cornerback cutting off a sideline angle, but Brown broke free with a stutter-step of rationalizations. “I can’t come do an interview sweaty all up,” Brown claimed, flashing a smile.

Shortly after that interview, Brown signed a new deal, including a $17 million signing bonus, that made him the highest-paid receiver in football. The apologies dried up after that.

No remorse for calling a white journalist a racist after he reported that Brown was limping. Or for yelling at his offensive coordinator during a game and then skipping practice the next day. Or for allegedly tossing furniture from his high-rise Miami apartment, driving 100 mph through a 45 mph zone or responding to the NFL’s new helmet rules like a teenager whose parents took away his phone.

In September 2018, I reported that Brown’s prolific Instagram posts masked a disturbing pattern of turmoil off the field. Brown responded by tweeting at me: “wait to I see you bro we gone see what that jaw like.” He later issued an apologetic statement through the Steelers. He did not post that statement on social media, which is where Brown expresses his truest thoughts.

Through it all, Brown continued to produce on the field. The former sixth-round draft pick has always used an underdog, me-against-the-world mentality to fuel the otherworldly work ethic that made him a star. Denial can be a superpower when you’re a 5-foot-10 receiver coming out of Central Michigan University who ran a 4.56-second 40 at the NFL combine.

But now that he’s top dog, Brown has fallen into an alternate reality where doubters and enemies lurk around every corner. “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year so we clear,” Brown typed on Instagram over an image of the letter from the Raiders that detailed his fines.

The Raiders should have been more concerned about Brown’s delusional end to last season.

The Steelers needed to win their final game to make the playoffs. The Wednesday before that game, Brown got into an argument with Roethlisberger, threw a ball in his quarterback’s direction and stomped out of practice. He went off the grid Thursday, Friday and Saturday, ignoring messages from Tomlin and other members of the team. Brown showed up at the stadium Sunday, when his agent contacted Tomlin and said Brown wanted to play. Tomlin said no. That was the end of Brown in black and gold.

Brown has yet to accept any responsibility for any of this.

On Twitter, and on LeBron James’ TV show The Shop, Brown spun a tale of having “bumps and bruises,” Tomlin telling him to stay home and the coach lying to the team that Brown quit. When the team voted JuJu Smith-Schuster their MVP, Brown attacked the young receiver on social media for a game-ending fumble. When Roethlisberger apologized for publicly criticizing Brown during the season, Brown tweeted, “Two face” — which undermined the sincerity of his previous apologies to Roethlisberger.

The whole thing was as shocking as Brown’s new blond mustache. Maybe he was enabled by the Raiders’ contract upgrade: $20 million per year, with $30 million guaranteed. But his tantrums allowed Oakland to void that deal, keep almost all of that money, and cut Brown loose.

Brown had 30 million reasons to swallow his medicine and his pride, apologize to his new team and hit the reset button on a once-brilliant career. But he was unable to understand his responsibility to his teammates, his employers and his own transcendent talent.

“I bring accountability,” Brown said at his introductory news conference in Oakland.

This might have been his last chance to make that statement true.

Dak Prescott isn’t a race traitor because he thinks there’s a better way to protest

By Brando Simeo Starkey      July 31, 2018 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott told reporters during a July 27 training camp news conference that he opposed protesting racial injustice during the national anthem. He staked out this territory after Stephen Jones, the team’s executive vice president and the son of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, said players must stand “if they want to be a Dallas Cowboy.”

After Prescott delivered his remarks, some who support the protest movement excoriated him as a sellout.

This criticism reeks of unfairness.

For one, assailing another black person based on how a racist might use that person’s words has long struck me as slimy. Racial treachery does exist, but we find it by examining the words of the supposed turncoat on their own merit. If racism is a fundamentally immoral practice, then why wield the words of immorality to put another person down?

Although I disagree with Prescott, he simply voiced the opinion that many black football players likely have. At the news conference, Prescott gave a few reasons for not protesting, including the notion that the field was the wrong place for political agitation: “For me, I believe in doing something, action. It’s not about taking a knee. It’s not necessarily about standing. We can find a different place to make our country better.”

Prescott, in other words, believes these sorts of actions are best reserved for outside of the football stadium. Just a slim minority of players protested racial injustice during the anthem. Many of those who didn’t likely agree with Prescott, and that’s why they opted against participating. And that’s not treasonous. That’s a difference of opinion.

Using the feelings of bigots to tear down another black person must be shunned by well-meaning black folk.

Prescott also hinged his personal opposition to the protests on his belief that protesting “takes away from the joy and the love that football brings a lot of people.” This idea, that the NFL protests should be discouraged because the league provides a happy distraction from society’s ills, has been repeated by many detractors of the kneeling players. This criticism, however, fails to grapple with an obvious question: Who needs the distraction more than black people?

The notion that NFL football provides a unique sporting event that sends joy across the land like few other cultural practices rings true. Americans bask in the bliss of football Sundays, a time when people crowd into stadiums, sports bars and living rooms across the country to share jubilation in victory or sadness in defeat. Those 17 weeks in the fall and winter assume a profound part of our culture that identifies us as a people. Football offers us a respite from the world’s issues. Sporting events have long served this purpose in human history, since gladiator battles in the Colosseum. They certainly did so in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, most memorably.

But if the NFL holds such a place in American culture, the place of happy distraction, we must ask ourselves the key question: Who needs this distraction more?

Colin Kaepernick ignited the protest movement in the wake of police shootings of black men and part of a culture that would rather avert its eyes from injustice than stare it down and fix it. Racism remains a social scourge, and Kaepernick, who dreamed about playing football since childhood, decided the joy he got from inside the stadium should be sacrificed to heal the pain outside of it. Other football players agreed, as dozens either kneeled during the anthem, raised their fists in solidarity with the struggle, or otherwise demonstrated that they too agreed with his mission.

Many black fans supported Kaepernick’s movement, even though football provided a major distraction from the racism pervading our culture. If racism is America’s most long-lasting problem, the victims of that are in most need of the distraction. Nearly 75 percent of black people support the protests; that shows that whatever is to be gained by football being a distraction is worth sacrificing to spur a conversation about how to rid society of white supremacy.

Prescott isn’t a sellout, but he does lack the imagination to use sports as a tool for cultural reformation. But by saying that he prefers to do his work outside of the field of play, he is putting the onus on himself to show that through deeds. He hasn’t done that yet, but the 25-year-old has time.

Otherwise, people will rightly conclude that he’s toeing the Jones family company line and trying to secure the big bag of money that might soon come his way.