Antonio Brown is back atop NFL newsfeeds after Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday that the Seahawks are among the teams who will “push to sign him.”
Brown is currently serving an eight-game suspension for a battery case involving a moving truck driver that the receiver plead no contest to back in June. That means he’s just two weeks away from being reinstated by the NFL.
Thus, the debate has resumed as to whether or not Brown is deserving of another shot to play professional football. This is what needs to be made absolutely clear: Brown doesn’t deserve anything. “Deserve” implies that any player with Brown’s checkered resume, both on the field and off, would warrant another chance to play in the NFL.
Which is why the notion that Brown deserves another lease on his NFL career is bogus. We all know that 99% of players with half of Brown’s baggage would have already played their final snap.
It’s pretty simple. Everyone brings a certain level of value to their employer, no matter the industry. You’re shown the door the moment your baggage surpasses that value.
“The reality about Antonio is he’s one of the best players to ever play this game,” Russell Wilson said on Thursday. “He’s always been a special player on the field.”
Exactly. Brown is quite literally one of the best receivers of all-time. There’s a reason why Wilson mentioned that before touching on Brown’s off-field issues. It’s why Brown will get another chance to play and why Colin Kaepernick has been out of the league since 2016. One guy is viewed as a transcendent player who can help a team win a Super Bowl, one isn't.
Wilson said he’s developed a friendship with Brown over the course of the last five years, and the two notably spent time working out together in California this past offseason. Wilson indicated that Brown has exhibited remorse for his past transgressions in their conversations and that the embattled wide receiver has paid his debt with this latest eight-game suspension.
“I don’t know the full process of it all, but I do know that I hope he gets to play football again and hopefully he gets a second chance in this process,” Wilson said.
That’s the thing, though. We’re way past a second chance for Brown. Within the parameters of football, Brown livestreamed a postgame speech from Mike Tomlin, sat out of practice prior to a crucial Week 17 contest in 2018 and sabotaged his brief stint with the Raiders prior to the 2019 season. He was a constant no-show to practice in Oakland and ultimately asked to be released after the Raiders voided all of the guarantees in his contract.
Upon having his wish granted, Brown celebrated his release from the Raiders like he’d just been told he wasn’t the father on the Maury Povich show.
“I’m free,” Brown said in a video that showed him taking a celebratory lap around his backyard.
It was a blissful ignorance that illustrated Brown’s lack of accountability for any part of the soured marriage in Oakland.
Beyond football, Brown had the incident with the moving truck driver. He has an ongoing sexual assault lawsuit opened against him by his former trainer Britney Taylor, the alleged details of which are disturbing. Brown also sent intimidating text messages to another woman who accused the receiver of sexual harassment. Within the threatening messages was a picture of the woman with her children. Brown was cut immediately by the Patriots, his most recent employer, upon images of those messages coming to light.
And that’s shockingly just the tip of the iceberg.
“The reality is that Antonio has had some tough moments in his life, especially as of late,” Wilson said. “He’s gone through a lot of things that he wishes he could take back and not do or say or whatever it may be. But I think he’s a special player for sure.
“I’ve developed a relationship with personally with him. Not everybody is perfect. That’s the reality. None of us are. Hopefully he gets to play football again.”
It should be noted that Wilson isn’t Brown’s keeper, nor is he responsible for the receiver’s actions. Heck, I have no doubt that Brown has been a great friend to Wilson or that Wilson has been a positive influence on Brown.
But it is interesting how Wilson worded his comments. He phrases “tough moments” like Brown was suddenly stricken with cancer or like he’s been bit by the injury bug. All of this mess is of Brown’s own doing. “Nobody’s perfect” is a convenient way to sweep everything under the rug as well.
Well, yeah, of course nobody is perfect. But some imperfections are more egregious than others, right? And we should be able to distinguish between someone who has unpaid parking tickets and someone who threatened his accuser of sexual harassment via text message, right?
And finally, isn’t it interesting that Wilson continues to circle back to Brown’s ability as a football player? Why is that relevant when discussing the severity of Brown’s past or whether he deserves to play in the NFL again?
All of those questions are important when mulling over the word “deserve.”
Wilson was asked directly about whether he separates person from player and if, when it comes to football, it’s “just win baby.”
“You guys know me better than that,” Wilson said, indicating that there is indeed a line in which someone could cross to the point where they’re no longer worthy of employment in the NFL.
But that line remains ambiguous and undefined.
“He’s obviously made some mistakes along the way,” Wilson continued. “I think that there’s been a process for that, and he’s had to deal with it and go through it. I pray for anybody that goes through anything. That’s just me. That’s my nature. I never wish anything bad on anybody.”
Again, this is more side-stepping from Wilson, who continuously painted with a broad and vague brush in his comments regarding Brown. Wilson also said he “wasn’t there” and didn’t know the full details of Brown’s past.
I’d argue that not only should Wilson want to know the full details, but that it’s incumbent on the Seahawks star quarterback to fully educate himself on the actions of his friend and potential teammate. By vouching for Brown, Wilson is putting his own reputation on the line. Choosing ignorance isn’t an option for Wilson at that point.
Pete Carroll indicated on Wednesday that the Seahawks will be in the running for Brown, though he did dodge a question about his comfort level with the receiver's past. Now we just have to wait and see where the talented wideout lands.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him or not, how serious it is with us getting him or not,” Wilson said. “But I do know that he can play some football.
“If he does play again, I think this is a place where he’ll grow a lot as a man. I think we’re going to continue to try and help anyone who walks in this locker room. That’s just part of our culture.”
Maybe Brown is a changed man. Maybe he is stricken with remorse and regret. But who knows for sure as Brown has been quiet of late.
“I think Antonio definitely has taken those steps in the process,” Wilson said. “Like I said, nobody’s perfect. From the conversations I’ve had with him, he’s really been remorseful, and he’s been humbled along the way. Like I said, I pray that he can continue to grow just like anybody.”
Brown doesn’t deserve another chance to play in the NFL. Not with his numerous offenses and open sexual assault case. But it seems inevitable that Brown’s opportunity will come over the next few weeks because, to steal Wilson’s words, “he’s one of the best players to ever play this game.”
And not much else matters.