There is no denying that Antonio Brown is one of, if not the best receiver in football. His route running is elite, he has tremendous hands, and his production on the field will eventually guarantee a spot in the Hall of Fame. But the issue and the one that may affect when he actually gets in the Hall, is that he’s a narcissist who demands approval and is oblivious to the fact that the drama surrounding him is his own doing.
You would think that being a sixth-round pick from Central Michigan would humble you. While there were a number of talented receivers in his draft class, Demariyus Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Golden Tate, none of them are considered as great as Antonio Brown. Surpringly, the success hes experienced on the field has done little to deter his growing ego off of it.
In a way, he’s almost this generations version of Terrell Owen’s, who is arguably one of the most talented receivers in NFL history. His antics off the field seemed to dwarf his accomplishments on it. At first, AB’s antics were pretty charming, showing up in a different vehicle at the start of training camp each year was pretty funny and a nice way to flaunt your newfound success. The helicopter was a bit much, but still, his production spoke volumes and was more than enough to overlook any off the field issues.
But then, his antics became more questionable. Broadcasting on Facebook live after beating the Chiefs in the divisional round was immature and was immediately met with the ire of his teammates. Whenever he was dissastisifed with a play, he would immediately lash out on the sideline or display poor body language, which would then dominate the conversation after the game. He criticized Steeler’s QB Ben Roethlisberger and while some his points were valid, these were conversations best meant left out of the public eye.
Unfortunately for the Steelers and their fans, it all came to a head last season, with AB dissatisfied with his role, resulting in him requesting a trade. If you happened to follow the Steelers last season, then there was no way it would’ve resulted with him remaining on the team. His outbursts were more frequent, he missed practices and even missed the last game of the season, with him famously being seen in a fur coat on the sidelines before the game. AB was vocal on social media with his displeasure with the team and no one was safe from his ire. The team quickly caved and agreed to trade him to the Raiders for a 3rd and 5th, which is far under what the prolific receiver’s worth.
You know the problem has gotten out of hand when the Owner signs off on this underwhelming deal. But even after being traded and having an introductory press conference with his new team, AB couldn’t help himself and continued to criticize his former team. Recently, he directed his emotions toward JuJu Smith-Schuster, his former running mate who had just been named the Pittsburgh Steelers team MVP for the 2018-2019 season. It was well deserved as JuJu had a spectacular season and wasn’t really a problem on or off the field.
Normally, in cases like this, talent and production trump personality. But when your ego is astronomically large that it conflicts with the overall team chemistry then it was almost guaranteed that AB would find himself elsewhere. He got what he wanted, he complained, got traded and then got paid. So, why in the world does he still hang on to the team that conceded to his demands? Simple, it’s a whole lot easier to point the finger and it’s also a way to keep the spotlight on yourself moving forward.
Players like Antonio Brown will continue to feed their ego until they’re humbled. These antics however, don’t help your brand or your cause, whatever that may be. This only hurts you moving forward. Fans will find it difficult to defend AB, especially considered hes on a new team and it’s clear that the Steelers have moved forward. Attacking Big Ben is one thing as both have openly criticized one another, but attacking JuJu or Emmanuel Sanders is vexing. Maturity is generally something that comes with age and experience, but it’s clear that even at 30, AB has some maturing to do.
Social media is platform that should help enhance your brand as when it comes to professional athletes, careers tend to be short. A simple tweet can literally change the public’s perception and with AB, he practically turned himself into a villain, someone oblivious to their surroundings and the various negative situations they put themselves in. It would probably be wise for him to stay off social media or at least make a concerted effort to rebuild his reputation. Regardless, AB’s ego has now trumped his production on the field, which doesn’t bode well for the Raiders, as these lingering feelings of pettiness towards former team may continue in the upcoming season.
Drama aside, its unsettling to see how quickly AB went from being an endearing character to a man who clearly isn’t self-aware. Time will tell if he finally matures, but for the best receiver in the game with a legendary work ethic, these last few years have exposed who he really is and it’s almost identical to TO. In team sports, you are never bigger than the organization you play for and its guaranteed that you will eventually be replaced. Your legacy will depend on how you carry yourself on and off the field, burning bridges will only make life more difficult regardless of your individual talent.
For a former sixth-round pick, AB should be praised for how his career has turned out so far, he has a real shot at being remembered as one of the greatest of all time. But if AB continues to bring the noise, he will be viewed as a diva, who while talented, was more about himself than the team and that would be a disservice to his greatness.