Miami Norland Senior High alumnus and newly released New England Patriots, 10-year All Pro NFL veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown was in Miami to begin his 2019 season. The week 2 campaign on Sunday, Sept. 15 against the Miami Dolphins, ended in a spanking by the Patriots –43-0 – at Hard Rock Stadium. Brown had four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown. Not too bad.
But he played under a dark cloud. On Tuesday, Sept. 10, Brown was accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, according to a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida. Brown's former trainer, Britney Taylor, said Brown sexually assaulting her on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. Taylor willingly met with the NFL investigators last week Monday, Sept. 16 for 10 hours — leaving Brown’s fate in the hands of league commissioner, Roger Goodell.
Also, Nike cut ties with the receiver, saying in an email to The Associated Press on Friday, Sept. 13, “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete."
Brown has denied the allegations. Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown, said his client plans to countersue.
The lawsuit caught the Patriots by surprise. And, after a second woman accused Antonio Brown of sexual misconduct, the New England Patriots on Friday, Sept. 20, released Brown, who had only been with the team for a short time. The team's statement attributed to a Patriots spokesperson said, in its entirety: "The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown. We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time."
While at Miami Norland, Brown was a two-sport athlete in both football and track. In football, Brown played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, and punt returner for the Vikings. Miami Norland is located less than 10 minutes away from Hard Rock Stadium.
Before being signed and released by the defending Super Bowl champions and before being traded to and released by the Oakland Raiders, Brown caught 100 passes for a sixth consecutive season with the Pittsburgh Steelers while putting up 1,297 yards and a league-high 15 touchdowns last year. On the surface, it looked like just another year as one of the game's top wideouts as he joined the New England Patriots, one of the most prolific franchises as they embark on a title defense.
Brown is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro receiver. He is undeniably one of the game’s best offensive weapons. Recently selected to be on the cover of the video game Madden 19, many never thought a kid from Miami would go on to become a sixth-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan, where Brown walked on.
The football field – as is the case for many Black kids in South Florida – was his outlet. As a dual-threat quarterback, he learned how to chase greatness. He learned discipline. He learned his maniacal work ethic. Young athletes listen to Brown because they want to be Brown. They want to learn how someone from Liberty City made it out of the mud, how he went from a walk-on at Central Michigan to the best receiver in the game.
Brown didn't earn a major Division I offer. So, he signed with Alcorn State, an Historically Black University, only to find out later he was academically ineligible. Unable to play football at the collegiate level, Brown enrolled in a postgrad prep school, North Carolina Tech, for a season. He then earned a full ride at Florida International University, but after getting into an on-campus dispute with an FIU security guard, his scholarship was pulled. He never stopped chasing, in spite of his missteps. Brown walked on at Central Michigan, transitioning to wide receiver. There, he finished as the school's all-time leader in receptions, second in touchdown receptions and third in receiving yards.
The rest is history: Drafted 195th overall in 2010 by the Steelers, Brown would grow into one of the league’s most dynamic pass-catchers over the course of his nine seasons in Pittsburgh and now, beginning year 10, with the Patriots.
During Brown's short stint with the Raiders and the recent actions, Brown likely wasn't going to be adding "Super Bowl champion" to his resume when he hangs up his cleats for good. Brown, who doesn't have a Super Bowl ring, would solely be relying on his career stats – with no other tangibles or intangibles to go with them – to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Add in the off-field drama that's been associated with his name this offseason such as the demand for a trade from Pittsburgh to Oakland, Brown made it clear he was fine never suiting up again for the Steelers.
Brown stated in an interview: “I don’t even have to play football if I don’t want. I don’t even need the game. I don’t need to prove nothing to anyone. If they wanna play, they going to play by my rules. If not, I don’t need to play.”
Brown was then traded from Pittsburgh to Oakland for a 2019 third- and fifth-round pick. Brown negotiated a new deal with Oakland that would pay him $50.13 million over the next three seasons. This deal included another $30.13 million in guaranteed money.
What Could Have Been
The Antonio Brown-era in New England lasted less than two weeks and just one game. "It's unfortunate things didn't work out with the Patriots," Rosenhaus tweeted, following the receiver's release. "But Antonio is healthy and is looking forward to his next opportunity in the NFL. He wants to play the game he loves and he hopes to play for another team soon."
His contract included a $9 million signing bonus and a $1 million salary. Since Brown only played with the team for one game, he was paid $158,333. Brown was set to receive the first installment of his signing bonus — $5 million — three days after the team released him.
Brown has filed a grievance against the team to collect the full $10 million. He will be represented by his union, the NFL Players Association.
On Sunday, Brown contradicted his agent and said he will no longer be playing in the NFL. "These owners can cancel deals do whatever they want at anytime," Brown said in a post on Twitter Sunday morning.
Before being released by the Patriots, Brown’s decision to join New England had the potential to help solidify his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. He had the opportunity to help them repeat as champions in his hometown of Miami. Brown also had the opportunity to be the potential unofficial ambassador of sorts for the 2020 Super Bowl as he is a native of Miami and had the opportunity to end an illustrious career riding off in the sunset as some of the greats did prior to him as NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis did in the 2006 Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in his native hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
If Brown’s last NFL career game was in fact Week 2 in Miami, we have to wait and see if he will get the call to Canton to see if … business is boomin’.