Antonio Brown Has Left the Building...Or So We Hope

Sometimes things transform in magnificent ways. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Sometimes, a thing not even thought about in one moment can become all too crucial in the next.

And as trivial as it truly is, the context of my annoyance with Antonio Brown and his continued scandal was initially in the frame of my fantasy football team.

I know, I know. Castigate me as you will. I've probably earned it plenty, don't you worry. But when news first broke of him being released by the Oakland Raiders some month ago, I was frustrated in the context of an Internet football game.

"I used a second round pick on him!"

"He was supposed to be my number one receiver!"

But of course, my indignation over fantasy football has only morphed into true and general repugnance with his continued behavior while a member (and no longer) of the New England Patriots and with new allegations of sexual assault leveled at him by a number of different women.

In short, the Antonio Brown story, as much as it's been hashed and rehashed on every sports talk show in this country, is truly among the most bizarre and troubling episodes in the history of the National Football League and probably all of athletics.

Brown's journey began, of course, after he forced his way out of Pittsburgh, demanding a trade after a series of falling outs with Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, and other Steelers brass. While this was often hyped beyond true measure, it was not so much a departure from typical NFL jostling. Just last week Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey (he with his own penchant for disruptiveness) similarly requested a trade amid beef with his own head coach.

Thus, Brown was sent packing to Oakland, where the recycled Jon Gruden welcomed him with open arms after having shipped away his last number one wide receiver, Amari Cooper, to Dallas the previous season. It was something of an odd marriage, given over to the odd personalities of Gruden and Brown, but it seemed like something brimming with potential.

Until training camp.

Antonio Brown began to make a number of strange requests, the most prominent being his stated desire to wear a specific helmet that the NFL had recently phased out due to concussion concerns. He took it far, filing numerous appeals and grievances with both the Raiders and the NFL before arbitration came down against him. In the midst of this he missed practices. Oh, and froze his feet in a cryotherapy accident that he described as his feet getting "circumcised."

Atop all of this came the final straw, which culminated in its own strange dance. As a result of his continued refusal to practice the Raiders fined him. After a point, they revoked his contractually guaranteed money. That got Brown's attention enough to call Raiders GM Mike Mayock a slew of nasty things, not the least of which was a "cracker." And then after a supposed period of healing, Antonio Brown illegally wiretapped a conversation between himself and Gruden that again referenced the revoking of the guarantee on his money. He released the recording on his social media. Another fight followed and Brown requested he be released. The Raiders complied with this, releasing Brown before he had even played a single snap of football for them, and essentially throwing away the third and fifth round picks they had traded to the Steelers.

And yet while that seemed to be the end of the Antonio Brown saga, nearly all were blindsided when the New England Patriots signed him within hours.

Then the spin machine started up. This was a conspiracy: AB had never wanted to play for Oakland because of course he wasn't going to win a Super Bowl there. This was typical Belichick: scrape the refuse off the top of the trash heap and spin it into gold like no one else can. This was crass: the sexual assault allegations had already surfaced and if now, in 2019, someone was still going to reward a guy after everything, had we learned nothing of powerful men abusing their positions for sexual gratification?

Whatever the narrative, Brown suited up for the Patriots and played in their Week 2 game against Miami. Played pretty darn well too. Was the leading receiver and even caught a touchdown.

And just like that, the experiment was over. The sexual assault allegations against Brown had concretized and another woman had come forward. Text messages sent by Brown to an associate displayed intimidating behavior intended to silence the new accuser, commenting in a malevolent fashion about her socioeconomic status and her children.

That proved a bridge too far for the New England Patriots, and owner Robert Kraft (himself recently caught up in a prostitution scandal) booted the former leading receiver.

And that's where the story ends. For now.

In a single calendar year, Antonio Brown has gone from being the highest paid receiver in all of football to being rejected by three different professional teams (and by default all other 29 franchises too), facing civil suits concerning sexual assault allegations against him, and has come under further investigation by the NFL.

It could be said that the mighty have fallen, but the grossly inappropriate behavior of Brown at every step in his dismissal from football makes me think there was little of anything mighty there to begin with. Even attempts to frame his issues in terms of race or worker rights have fallen flat. He is truly out in the cold.

Which is why, in my own paltry way, although I'm frustrated about the status of my fantasy football team (currently a disappointing 0-4 thanks in part to AB) it's a small, small fish in a much wider pond. Ultimately, it's just a game. Sexual assault and racial antagonism are most certainly not.

The transformation of Antonio Brown may've been a magnificently terrible one, but it's conclusion, broken and sequestered as it is, is indelibly for the better.

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