Love of the Game Vs. Love of the Fame

Five months into his tenure with the Oakland Raiders, star wide- receiver Antonio Brown has become one of the biggest stories of the NFL this decade.

It all began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Brown played his first eight years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Miami native was drafted by the Steelers in 2010 with the 195th overall pick in the sixth round.  During his time in Pittsburgh, Brown led the league in receptions twice (2014, 2015) and receiving yards twice (2014, 2017). Antonio Brown has the talent and ability to be one of the best receivers in the game, and is widely considered as such.

But as many athletes know, an overzealous personality can often lead to trouble.  Brown’s lack of respect towards his peers and coaches was highlighted throughout the 2017 and 2018 NFL Seasons, where he engaged in selfish and unnecessary actions that hurt his team. 

On March 9, 2019, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders where he promised to be the best teammate and man that he could be. However, it didn’t take long for things to spiral out of control. On August 3rd, it was revealed that Brown failed to use proper foot protection while undergoing cryo-recovery treatment.  The result was frostbite on both feet. This careless injury caused him to miss 10 out of the 11 Raiders Training Camp Practices. Then on August 9th, Brown filed a grievance against the NFL due to the expiration of helmet models in a rule banning certain models of helmets, including the one worn by Brown his whole career. This angered Brown, to the point where he threatened to retire from the league if he didn’t get to wear his old helmet. As if those things weren’t enough, he engaged in a variety of confrontations with teammates, coaches, and ownership. He went as far to say that he “didn’t need the game anymore”, and that if he was going to play, he was “going to play by his rules, not the teams’”. Brown was eventually released by the Raiders, only to be signed by the Patriots within hours. 

Brown’s antics have showcased his true colors. His behavior paints him as a man who doesn’t want to play football, and only seeks attention and fame, tainting the image of the modern game, and professional sports as a whole. 

Professional sports today, especially football, have become much more about the business, rather than the actual game. Players of past generations would give anything to be on the field, playing the game they loved. Young kids dreamed of playing football, not for the money, but for the passion of the game. Now, those same kids dream not of playing the game, but of the endorsements, fame, and celebrity status that comes with it. The modern NFL player believes they are entitled to a big contract and respect just by walking in the door.  Not only is this mindset spreading rapidly throughout the league, but it’s also setting a negative example for the future stars. This individualistic mindset is killing the team aspect of the game. Players nowadays take too much for granted, and forget to appreciate the smaller, simpler parts of the sport that has captivated Americans for decades. The league needs a return to having players that play for the love of the game, not for the love of fame. 

In an age where politics and social issues are at the forefront of American culture, it is not surprising that a man such as Antonio Brown has been accused of sexual assault by two individual women, first on September 7th by a former trainer of Brown’s, Britney Taylor, and then again on September 16th by an unnamed artist. 

Although no charges have been officially brought upon Brown, he is certainly not the first to be caught up in a case like this. There have been a variety of recent instances of NFL players being accused of sexual misconduct, with a majority of these having occurred in the past 20 years. This trend follows the players in other types of off-field issues, such as domestic violence. While this negative trend certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, it is clear that the modern NFL player has evolved. Whether or not this evolution is permanent remains to be seen. As for Brown’s football life, he was released by the Patriots on September 20th.  The organization claimed that Brown had sent “intimidating texts while he was a Patriot” to one of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct. He has recently re-enrolled in college, taking four classes at Central Michigan University including ‘Death and Dying’. His football career appears to be over as of now, but with him, there is no knowing what antics Brown will stir up in the future.