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The rise and fall of Antonio Brown

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Sep 24th 2019 08:00 pm
Antonio Brown has tranformed himself from a little-known, talented wide receiver into a transcendent superstar. He then endured a rapid and destructive fall from glory, all his own doing, potentially ruining his future in the process. Still just 31 years old, Brown has been with three NFL organizations in the last year and claims he is done playing in the NFL.
Antonio Brown has tranformed himself from a little-known, talented wide receiver into a transcendent superstar. He then endured a rapid and destructive fall from glory, all his own doing, potentially ruining his future in the process. Still just 31 years old, Brown has been with three NFL organizations in the last year and claims he is done playing in the NFL.

The time at the top

 

Antonio Brown, a former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, had a down season in 2012, his second season in the league, but cemented his status as one of the top wide receivers in the game in 2013. He began his streak of six consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards. Brown had between eight and 15 touchdown catches in all those seasons. He also went to the Pro Bowl every year during that span. Brown’s crowning achievement was being selected to All-NFL teams every season between 2014 and 2017, meaning he was voted one of the best at his position in the league. Brown, when paired with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell, formed the “Killer B’s” and led the Steelers to the playoffs from 2014 to 2017. The 2018 season was the end of Brown’s streak of All-NFL teams, but he still reeled in 104 passes for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns.

 

The breakup

 

Brown began the separation between himself and the Steelers during the 2018 season. Things began to get sour in Week Two after Brown became heated on the sidelines. A week later, he tweeted “trade me and find out” after a Steelers employee said Brown should thank Roethlisberger for his success. Emily Caron of Sports Illustrated later reported that Brown posted a goodbye video to Steelers fans on Feb. 12, 2019 after losing in the playoffs. He also requested a trade at that time. Later that week, he spoke with the media about Roethlisberger. Brown claimed that Roethlisberger had too much of an “owner’s mentality” and that other teammates could not call him out because “otherwise they meal ticket gone.” After the incident, Roethlisberger downplayed the situation and said there would not be a “blowout” between the two. Another reason Brown wanted out of Pittsburgh was because they refused to give him the fully-guaranteed contract he wanted.

 

The Oakland days

 

The Steelers decided to finally move on and traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders on March 10, 2019. The Steelers received a third-round and fifth-round pick in exchange for Brown’s services. Brown was also given a new contract once the trade became official. He signed for three years and $50.125 million. The maximum value of the contract was $54.125 million according to Around the NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal. Only $30.125 million of it was guaranteed, which was not what Brown requested from the Steelers.

Brown stayed quiet for a few months, but the drama began on July 25. Brown showed up to Raiders’ training camp in Napa, Calif. with frostbite on both feet, according to Paul Gutierrez and Mike Reiss of ESPN. He got frostbite from a cryotherapy mistake in France earlier in the month and was placed on the non-football injury list. Brown participated in his first practice on July 30, but left the facility halfway through the event. He did not participate in camp for another two weeks in protest of his preferred helmet being banned by the NFL for safety reasons. Raiders’ general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden supported Brown during his protest.

On Aug. 18 after losing his first grievance against the NFL over his helmet dispute, Brown left training camp again and was fined $40,000 by Mayock. Brown then posted the letter detailing his fines on Instagram and got into a heated conversation with Mayock. He was reportedly suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team” on Sept. 5 and issued an “emotional apology” the next day. The same day, Gruden announced Brown would play in the season opener.

Sept. 7 was the day that effectively ended the Brown-Raiders relationship, as Mayock fined Brown another $215,000 for conduct detrimental to the team, which voided the rest of his guaranteed money. Brown took to Instagram again, asking for his release. The Raiders granted it to him before he ever played a game and agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots just hours later.

 

The legal issues

 

On Sept. 10, Britney Taylor, Brown’s former personal trainer, filed a civil suit in Miami, Fla. that accused him of sexual assault or rape in three different instances between 2017 and 2018 in Pennsylvania and Miami. Despite the allegations, Brown played for the Patriots in Week Two of the 2019 NFL season. Brown’s allegations began to pile up on Sept. 16, when a female artist accused him of sexual misconduct in 2017 while she was working at his house. The second allegation was a part of a report by Sports Illustrated that detailed domestic incidents, including unpaid debts and a charity auction theft, according to the story by Gutierrez and Reiss. The artist’s lawyer then said that Brown sent her threatening text messages on Sept. 19. One day later, Brown was released from the New England Patriots, just three days before the first $5 million of his $9 million contract was due.

 

The retirement

 

On Sunday, Sept. 22, Brown tweeted his “retirement” from the NFL.

“Will not be playing in the @NFL anymore these owners can cancel deals do whatever they want at anytime we will see if the @NFLPA hold them accountable sad they can just void guarantees anytime going on 40m two months will see if they pay up,” Brown tweeted.

While on his rant, Brown called out Roethlisberger on Twitter yet again, who was suspended four games after being accused of sexual assault twice.

“Four games for Big Ben crazy world I’m done with it.”

 

Brown’s rise to fame through his play ended up being overshadowed by multiple off-the-field issues. If there is one thing to learn from this situation, it is that fame can do things to people that they could never imagine.

 

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