If being outspoken for a living has taught me anything over the course of the past few years, it’s to wait until all the facts come out before jumping out the window with an opinion. So despite the fact that my phone and email have been blowing up all week with people asking for my thoughts on mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown’s dramatic exit on Sunday—in which he ripped off his pads and jersey on the sidelines before chucking the deuce and jogging into the locker room—I kept my mouth shut because there had to be more to the story.
Yes, the seven-time Pro Bowler has made more than his fair share of mistakes—from coming for teammates and the rich white men cutting his checks; to colorfully mistaking Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock with a box of Ritz; to being accused of sexual assault and intimidation; to multiple alleged incidents of assault and the destruction of property; to getting suspended for using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card—all while acquiring a considerable amount of enemies along the way. But the rumors insisting that AB acted out in response to being deprived of performance bonuses didn’t make any sense. Nor did media members preemptively jumping down Brown’s throat when we had yet to hear his side of the story. (Although admittedly, his track record doesn’t exactly scream that he deserves the benefit of the doubt.)
All we knew was that according to Tampa Bay Bucs coach Bruce Arians, his star receiver refused to enter the game. And in turn, Arians told him to “get out” and that “he was no longer a Buc.” And now, after days of silence—which included the questionable release of a new song none of us have any desire to hear and a courtside appearance at Monday’s Brooklyn Nets game—Brown is telling his side of what went down, courtesy of a lengthy statement he released through his attorney, Sean Burstyn, on Wednesday.
After expressing his gratitude to the Bucs for taking a chance on him despite his checkered past, the Miami, Fla., native accused Arians of being a lying-ass liar who took advantage of Brown’s love for the game by bullying him into taking a “powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller” and playing despite suffering from an excruciating ankle injury. And when Brown could no longer play through the pain, well...
“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. It was well-documented and we had discussed it,” Brown said in his statement. “He then ordered me to get on the field. 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.
He continued, “I didn’t quit. I was cut. I didn’t walk away from my brothers. I was thrown out. Being fired on the sideline for having a painful injury was bad enough. Then came their ‘spin.’ Coach denied on national television that he knew about my ankle. That’s 100 [percent] inaccurate. Not only did he know I missed several games with the injury, he and I exchanged texts days before the game where he clearly acknowledged my injury. He obviously knew I was on the injury list. And the GM acknowledged after the game in text messages to my camp that I did tell my coach about my ankle pain on Sunday.”
Brown then goes on to insist that now the team is keeping him captive by refusing to release him and attempting to dictate how his ankle should be treated.
“First they cut me. Now they cage me,” Brown said. “Instead of asking how I felt or getting to the bottom of it, the team texted my camp promoting a totally false narrative that I randomly acted out without any explanation. They even told us in writing ‘don’t spin this’ any other way.
“I have stress, I have things I need to work on. But the worst part of this has been the Bucs’ repeated effort to portray this as a random outburst. They are telling people that first I walked off, then I was cut. No. No. No. I was cut first and then I went home. They threw me out like an animal and I refused to wear their brand on my body, so I took my jersey off.”
He continued, “As part of their ongoing cover-up, they are acting like I wasn’t cut and now demanding that I see a doctor of their choice to examine my ankle. What they did not know until now is that on Monday morning I had an urgent MRI on my ankle. It shows broken bone fragments stuck in my ankle, the ligament torn from the bone, and cartilage loss, which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside. But that must and can be repaired.
“The MRI has been read by two top orthopedic surgeons in NYC, including Dr. Martin O’Malley at Hospital for Special Surgery. Not realizing that I had already scheduled a surgery at HSS, the Bucs ‘ordered’ me under penalty of discipline and with a few hours’ notice to show up to a more junior doctor at HSS for another opinion. What a joke. They’re playing like I wasn’t cut, giving me a surprise attack ‘order’ to show up to another doctor with no reasonable notice, and setting this whole thing up as a basis to cut me because what they did on Sunday was not legitimate. Sorry, GM. I already received a confirming opinion from the Top Doc at the hospital you ‘ordered’ me to go to.”
Now do you see why I pumped the brakes on jumping out the window with an opinion?
While AB’s dramatic exit on Sunday was a grand spectacle—to put it lightly—I can completely understand his frustration in being booted from a team that he went to such great lengths to suit up and play for. But what’s also true is that Brown hasn’t been the same person ever since Vontaze Burfict nearly decapitated him in the 2016 playoffs. In the time since, he’s proven himself to be a danger to both himself and others, and has demonstrated behaviors that are consistent with those who’ve suffered from the degenerative brain condition, CTE.
My hope is that AB steps away from the game he loves and seeks out professional help in order to address these issues—although at this point, that choice might no longer even be his. I also hope that if Brown is telling the truth about Arians and the rest of the Bucs organization, that the NFL investigate the matter and address it accordingly.