By Terrance Turner
Jan. 2, 2021
Today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the New York Jets on the road for the first time ever. Quarterback Tom Brady helped the team overcome a 14-point deficit for their biggest comeback of the season. After trailing 24-10 in the third quarter, Brady threw a touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 4 shortly after Brown’s exit, and the QB finished the Bucs’ rally with a 33-yard touchdown to wide receiver Cyril Grayson with 15 seconds left. This is Tampa Bay’s first-ever road win against the Jets. But the headline came courtesy of Antonio Brown, the now-former wide receiver for the Buccaneers.
With the Bucs trailing in the third quarter, Brown became agitated for reasons that are still unclear. According to ESPN, teammates Mike Evans and O.J. Howard tried to calm Brown. But he wouldn’t be calmed. Brown took off his jersey (with the pads inside) and threw it on the bench. Then he removed his undershirt and gloves and threw them into the stands. Then he ran shirtless down the side of the end zone as he waved to the fans — waving goodbye.
Nobody knew what was happening — especially not Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. When asked in a postgame interview what he knew, Gronk replied, “I don’t know anything about that. I was getting my head smashed by 300-pound defenders, trying to catch passes, break tackles. I didn’t have time to see what was happening on the sidelines.”
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians was even more blunt during a postgame press conference. When asked for comment, Arians said: “He is no longer a Buc. That’s the end of the story.”
The problem began when Arians tried to get Brown in the game. According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, Bruce Arians said that he was trying to get Brown to enter the game, and that Brown refused. Arians tried again, and Brown refused again. At this point, Arians told Brown to get out. “Never seen anything like it in all my years,” Arians said.
A source told ESPN that Brown was not benched. “He quit,” the source said. Brown did not fly home on the team charter, according to another source. It is unclear where Antonio Brown goes from here. But apparently he caught an Uber home:
This is far from the first incident involving Brown. Brown left the Pittsburgh Steelers in early 2019 after reportedly throwing a ball at a teammate during practice, Brown landed on the then-Oakland Raiders for what was a disastrous tenure. In July, he missed training camp after getting frostbite on his feet. (He had entered a cryotherapy chamber without wearing the appropriate footwear.) In August, he missed more time due to helmet grievances. (He had worn the same Schutt AiR Advantage helmet since he started in the league. But the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) “will not certify any helmet that is more than 10 years old.”)
Around this time, per ESPN, Brown was fined $13,950 for missing a walk-through on Aug. 22 — an unexcused absence. In early September, he confronted Raiders general manager Mike Mayock to complain about the fine. The discussion got heated: Brown reportedly called Mayock a “cracker” and threatened to punch him in the face (!). Brown later issued an emotional apology and remained with the team. But not for long.
Brown soon found out that he was being fined for his confrontation with Mayock. The Raiders fined Brown $215,073.53 for conduct detrimental to the team, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The fine voided $29 million of guaranteed money on Brown’s contract. In addition, the Raiders sent Brown a letter stating that he no longer would be entitled to termination pay if he were released.
Brown didn’t care. Angered by the fine and the revocation of his guaranteed money, he went on social media and all but dared the Raiders to release him. He wasn’t playing without his guaranteed cash. “No guarantee, no way,” he told a reporter via text. The Raiders honored his request and released him on Sept. 7, 2019.
Two days later, on Sept. 9, Brown signed with the Patriots. The next day, former trainer Britney Taylor had filed a lawsuit accusing Brown of two alleged sexual assaults and one alleged rape that the suit says took place on three separate occasions between June 2017 and May 2018. The New York Times reported that Brown had hired Taylor after meeting her at Central Michigan and that she had quit after his first two advances. But she returned to work, “swayed by his assurance that he would cease all sexual advances.”
Then, the lawsuit says, on May 20, 2018, Brown forced her onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress and “forcibly” raped her. She tried to resist him, screaming and repeatedly shouting “no” and “stop,” the lawsuit says, but Brown refused and penetrated her.From “Antonio Brown Accused of Rape in a Lawsuit”, New York Times
The lawsuit says that Taylor told at least three people about the incidents: her mother, Brown’s chef and a member of her church. But Brown denied the allegations and countersued for defamation. The litigation wasn’t settled until April 2021.
By then, Brown had joined the Buccaneers, after Brady lobbied for him to be signed. But Brown was just months away from yet another incident. In November, he was accused on using fake vaccination cards to avoid NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. (He could be legally liable for that. Forging the CDC seal that appears on real vaccine cards is a federal offense that can be penalized with fines or up to five years in prison.) The FBI has urged members of the public not to buy fake vaccine cards.
UPDATE (Jan, 6, 2022): Antonio Brown has released a statement on social media that claims he’s suffered from an ankle injury. Via his attorney, he stated: “Because of my commitment to the game, I relented to pressure directly from my coach to play injured. Despite the pain, I suited up, the staff injected me with what I now know was a powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller that the NFLPA has warned against using, and I gave my all for the team.”
“I played until it was clear that I could not use my ankle to safely perform my playing responsibilities. On top of that, the pain was extreme. I took a seat on the sideline and my coach came up to me, very upset, and shouted, ‘What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?’ I told him, ‘It’s my ankle.’ But he knew that.
I said, ‘Coach, I can’t.’ He didn’t call for medical attention. Instead, he shouted at me, ‘YOU’RE DONE!’ while he ran his finger across his throat. Coach was telling me that if I didn’t play hurt, then I was done with the Bucs. I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out.”
Arians countered that narrative in remarks to the press:
“He was very upset at halftime about who was getting targeted,” Arians said. “Got that calmed down, players took care of that. It started again on the sideline. We called for the personnel group that he had played in the entire game. He refused to go in the game. That’s when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach. I then went back, approached him about what was going on. ‘I ain’t playing.’ What’s going on? ‘I ain’t getting the ball.’ That’s when I said, ‘You’re done, get the eff out of here.’”
Asked about the throat-slash gesture that Arians allegedly made to Brown, Arians laughed and suggested that it was the motion with his finger, telling Brown to leave. For their part, the Buccaneers organization has made his departure official, as of today: