With each and every day we get a clearer picture of who Antonio Brown is: An uber-talented receiver who continues to exhibit destructive, harmful and allegedly illegal behavior.
The Raiders knew Brown was troubled when they acquired him -- that much was clear from the way his tenure with the Steelers ended. But the opportunity to acquire talent often overrides logic, so the Raiders, believing Brown would be different in a new environment, traded a third- and a fifth-round draft pick to secure a one-of-a-kind offensive weapon. But a drama-filled summer that included frostbitten feet, two helmet grievances, missed practices, fines, an altercation with general manager Mike Mayock and an illegally recorded phone call with head coach Jon Gruden that later was released on Instagram, culminated in the Raiders releasing Brown at his request and ridding themselves of a headache even the most talented neurosurgeon would be unable to cure.
Brown's antics with the Raiders have been characterized as juvenile but relatively harmless. However, that is not always the case.
Days after signing with the New England Patriots, Brown's former trainer Britney Taylor filed a lawsuit against Brown alleging the receiver sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions, including "forcibly raping" her. Brown has denied these allegations.
On Monday, Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko published a deep dive on Brown's pattern of odd, disturbing behavior that has been ramping up ever since he made the transition from sixth-round draft pick to All-Pro receiver.
Klemko interviewed more than two dozen people who have been associated with Brown -- from former employees of Brown to ex-teammates -- to get the full picture of Brown's troubled history.
Sports Illustrated's report is wide-ranging and deep, going into detail on Brown's pattern of not paying debts, the number of domestic incidents he's been involved in and the deranged behavior he's often exhibited. From things we know about -- the furniture throwing lawsuit and fish head chef incident -- to another report of sexual misconduct, Klemko's reporting paints a picture that shows Brown's antics are more than just social-media fun. Rather, it shows a troubled man with a penchant for disturbing behavior.
In June 2017, Brown hired a local artist he met at a charity auction to come to his house and paint a mural of him. Per Klemko, Brown paid the woman $1,000 a day and even paid for a van to pick her up in New York and drive her to his Pennsylvania home. The woman, who requested to remain anonymous, told Klemko that Brown was flirtatious with her on Day 1, but things took a turn on Day 2.
“I was about 40% done on the second day, and I’m on my knees painting the bottom, and he walks up to me butt-ass naked, with a hand cloth covering his [penis] and starts having a conversation with me,“ she told Sports Illustrated. "Unfortunately, I’ve been tried [by men] a lot of times, so I just kept my cool and kept painting,” she says. “After that, it all ended abruptly.”
Brown paid her the $2,000 but then "ghosted" her, per Klemko. He also never paid the charity the $700 for the initial painting he purchased at the auction.
Not paying his debts is somewhat of a pattern for Brown, it appears. He is being sued by a Pennsylvania doctor for $11,500 for services he never paid for. Sean Pena, a California speed trainer, currently is suing Brown for $7,200 in unpaid wages in Alameda Country Court, per Klemko. Robert Leo, a car detailer who acted as Brown's personal valet in Pennsylvania, is suiting the receiver for $16,000 in expenses he covered on his own credit card that Brown never reimbursed him for. There's Jeff Leung of Aqua World Pet Super Center who is contemplating suing Brown for $2,000 he never paid when Leung installed a 220-gallon tank in Brown's residence and filled it with a piranha. The piranha died because Brown failed to clean the tank.
Then there's the odd behavior, like a 2018 incident when Brown called the police to his Florida reporting his Rolls Royce had been stolen. Per the report obtained by Klemko, that wasn't the case.
Via the police report:
“We [two police officers] knocked on the door several times before a male voice responded, “who is it?” I identified myself and a black male [later identified as Brown] opened the door. When I said hello, [Brown] said ‘I found the car’ and closed the door.”
Brown had a rough upbringing, often sleeping on the couches of teammates and coaches after his stepfather kicked him out of the house. Once he rose to superstar status with the Steelers, he started to take on a "you don't know what I've overcome" mindset, which would have become a problem in Pittsburgh had it not been for Mike Tomlin.
“Antonio’s thing is that when he gets upset he’ll say to a coach, ‘You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know where I’m from,’” a former Steelers teammate told Sports Illustrated. “But Tomlin is a black dude who went from William & Mary to becoming an NFL head coach. He knows that struggle. And he could say, Yes I do know where you’re coming from.”
Tomlin helped keep things on track with Brown in Pittsburgh, allowing him to blossom into the star he is today. Brown was mentored by his high school coaches -- coach Brooks and coach James Upton -- and Butch Jones at Central Michigan, but Klemko reports Brown no longer is in contact with those who he used to rely on.
Brown's talent is undeniable. But the concerning pattern of behavior exhibited over the past few years and fully fleshed out by Klemko's reporting, show the Raiders made the right choice in cutting him loose when he demanded his release following his wild offseason.
Tomlin was able to keep things in house and keep Brown happy for most of his time in Pittsburgh. Gruden and Mayock did everything they could to foster a good relationship with Brown, one they thought would be beneficial to both the team and player.
But the episodes kept coming, and it doesn't look like they'll stop just because Brown now resides at 1 Patriot Place.
Losing top talent never is easy, but the Raiders made the right move to extract a headache that showed no signs of getting better in Oakland, and likely will fester in New England sooner or later.
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