Beyond the Scoreboard: When We Let a Baby Get His Way


Antonio Brown engineered departures from two NFL teams, and that's just the start of his story. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Dylan Balsamo, Assistant Sports Editor

In the United States and most of the western world, there seems to be a new class of people in the social system. A type of upper class citizen that has all the money — if not more — of the top percentile and has a boundless influence on all of civilization. We like to call these people celebrities.

The isle of celebrity is inhabited by all different types: movie stars, authors, media personalities, musicians, business people, social media influencers, even a politician or two. One of the most common examples of a celebrity is the world class professional athlete. An individual that can come from any background and rise to success by specializing in a certain athletic activity in the prime physical years of their life.

In America, a country that is able to have many sports at multiple levels be in the national spotlight at a time, there are plenty of pro players across the nation who have hit that upper echelon of society.

The problem with celebrities is that, the more we regular folk rush to buy and see whatever products or projects our favorite people and public figures have been working on, the more we contribute to their brand and the more out of touch they become with the lives of the rest of society. They live in a bubble made up of only things that immediately affect them. And for athletes, their immediate world can easily become a routine of playing their sport, winning games and making ridiculous amounts of money.

Wealth and power has the potential to breed madness to its utmost extent, and such is the case of wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Brown entered the NFL when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, after being a two-time All-American at Central Michigan University. Making a small contribution to a Pittsburgh team that went to the Super Bowl in his rookie season, the year after, Brown became the first NFL player ever to record over 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. Since he was drafted, no player has had as many receptions or receiving yards as Antonio Brown.

Just this past Saturday, Brown verbally agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the most successful football team of the past two decades, the New England Patriots, a team that has been painfully dominant over the rest of the NFL. They might as well run out onto the field with storm troopers at their sides.

While it is admittedly unbearable to watch the statistically best wide-out in the game wind up with the statistically best team in football, the story could be swung in a way to see it as a talented player who might finally get his Super Bowl ring.

But here’s the thing about Antonio Brown; he has spent the last year acting like a complete child.

During the 2018 season, while continuing to be an impact offensive player, Brown began to develop a reputation for causing problems in the Steelers’ locker room, particularly with the squad’s long-tenured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Brown is said to have provoked an argument with Roethlisberger and then proceeded to skip practices leading up to the final game of the season. Brown was benched for the final game against the Bengals, and, after a request, Antonio Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders.

Brown immediately caused issues with the Raiders, missing most of training camp due to improper footwear that caused frostbite, filing a grievance with the league in order to wear a helmet that had been banned and a reportedly heated verbal altercation with Raiders General Manager Mike Maycock, in which Brown had to be held back by teammates. He was released by request the day before the start of the season, without having played a single game for Oakland.

It was later that day that he became a Patriot. If he can stick around for the whole season, Antonio Brown may have whined his way to holding the Lombardi trophy.

Brown had problems on a team that was not having success, so he requested a trade. When he was traded to another team of such caliber, he caused more problems until he got the chance to be on a better team. He got his way.

It is a shame that this kind of behavior is coming from such a talented receiver. Brown’s absence was sorely felt for the first time by the Steelers, who were nearly silent offensively in a 33–3 loss to the New England Patriots. Brown did not play. He is a big football star with an even bigger attitude.

But Brown is a celebrity, a group of people who sit atop the world with careers that have been sponsored by the bourgeois bequeathed upon them. While some of these celebrities may be specifically labelled as influencers, in this day in age, when Twitter and Instagram serve more people in a day than McDonald’s ever could, any person in the public eye has a public voice to be heard.

And athletes have always been particularly known for being influential for children of all ages.

It is difficult to think of all of the children in the country who idolize Brown, especially those in the New England area who will now see the way this successful athlete is acting and think it is not only accepted but encouraged.

And if Tuesday’s multiple rape allegations have any truth to them at all, it is the mounds of icing on the worst possible cake the NFL could have baked up.

If children continue to look at Antonio Brown as a role model, we may have a serious problem.