Much has been made about Antonio Brown’s anticipated return to pro football with the Albany Empire, a team for which he is part owner. After several stops and starts, it was expected that Brown would suit up for the Empire this coming Saturday, June 17.
Now, just two days before Brown’s ballyhooed return to the gridiron, he’s managed to shock the viewing public once more.
Instead of suiting up for the Empire, Brown’s mere presence has proven so catastrophic that his Empire have been shown the door, exiled from the National Arena League altogether.
Fans Not Surprised By News of Antonio Brown’s Albany Empire Kicked Out of Arena League
I’m surprised it took this long!
— Blind World of Sports (@blindsportsfan) June 15, 2023
Man he needs to disappear for a while.
Bro has been taking L after L since Brady carried him to a Superbowl
— PICKETT 2 PICKENS SZN (@Gaige_Rage) June 15, 2023
Per a recent report from WNYT, an Albany local news outlet, the league’s ownership board agreed unanimously it’d be in their best interest to remove the Empire.
“The decision was reached after an emergency conference call of the members in good standing to discuss the Empire’s failure to pay their league mandated and overdue assessments,” said the board in a release.
And thus concludes Brown’s brief, yet somehow obscenely chaotic foray into ownership.
Per Sports Illustrated, Brown became part owner of the Empire in March of this year.
In that time, he drew criticism for not paying his coaching staff or players. Intrigue for his now-unfulfilled plans of suiting up once more and, finally, ridicule for the unglamorous end his tenure met.
Why Is Antonio Brown No Longer in the NFL?
It seems hard to believe now, but it was a mere five years ago that Brown was at the top of his craft. In the six seasons between 2013-18, Brown racked up 686 receptions, 9,145 yards, and 67 touchdowns. Those are per-season averages of 114 catches, 1,524 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
He was unanimously regarded as a top two or three wide receiver in football, if not the very best. In 2018, his age-30 season, Brown gave no indication he was slowing down. Yet, he would amass a paltry 1,084 yards in his next three seasons combined.
The reasons for that are myriad and fascinating.
First, through a series of elaborate stunts, Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh. He dyed a blonde mustache, took to Instagram Live under the self-appointed moniker of “Mr. Big Chest,” and issued a farewell to Steelers fans on Twitter…while still on the team.
It worked. Brown was traded to the then-Oakland Raiders. The comedy of errors that would ensue made his Pittsburgh exodus look tame.
In fact, Brown never played a down for the Raiders. He missed the majority of training camp due, first, to frostbitten feet from a cryotherapy chamber. Then he threatened to hold out because of a dispute with the league over his helmet of choice.
Brown would ultimately decide the Raiders weren’t his style either. He publicly spatted with then-general manager Mike Mayock and shared snippets of a phone call with then-coach Jon Gruden in a video for social media.
Predictably, Brown was, again, shown the door.
The Patriots took a shot on him, as they have so many reclamation projects in the Bill Belichick era. After all, who could resist pairing Tom Brady with that kind of weaponry?
It would fail pretty spectacularly.
Brown played all of one game for New England in 2019, albeit he did catch a touchdown in that game. When sexual assault allegations arose soon thereafter, New England washed their hands of him too.
“The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown,” the team said in a statement. “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.”
Brown and Brady would link up again, however, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.
For a time it was, well, harmonious. Brown was a productive member of Tampa’s Super Bowl 55-winning team. He racked up a solid 483 yards in eight regular-season games (he missed the first half of the year to suspension) and caught two postseason touchdowns.
He would produce similarly the next year.
While perhaps not the upper-echelon threat he was in his heyday, Brown still proved a tough cover. At 34, he could still be playing today.
Of course, most of us know by now how his NFL story ended.
Ever the malcontent, Brown had a very public, very abrupt exit from the Bucs. It was in a late-season game against the New York Jets when Brown, after a brief shouting match with Tampa’s then-coach Bruce Arians, stripped off his shoulder pads and his shirt and ran into the locker room.
But the showman didn’t stop there, he made sure to play to the crowd as he departed.
Whether or not he knew it at the time, that would ultimately be the lasting image of Antonio Brown on a pro football field. And with this most recent news, that’ll remain the case.
Brown will be remembered for his prolific highs. His sustained excellence, remarkable work ethic, and incredible highlights will not be forgotten. His numbers were too, too good to gloss over. However, they’ll probably always be overshadowed by the ignominious end his career met and his proclivity for drawing negative headlines.
Perhaps this quote from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, from a 2022 piece by Steelers Now’s Nick Farabaugh, summarizes it best.
“Because with success comes a lot of things,” Tomlin said. “Some we deal with well, some we don’t. Some he dealt with well, some of it he didn’t, and some of it changed him in ways that weren’t as attractive.”