Antonio Brown has no problem courting controversy, but the American football star’s epic mid-game meltdown has cost him his club and rightly drawn plenty of criticism.
It’s not often you see a professional athlete quit live on TV, but that’s exactly what Brown did on Sunday. And no wonder Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fans have slammed the player for, quite literally, leaving their team in the lurch.
Visibly-furious with his team trailing in the third quarter against the New York Jets at the MetLife Stadium, 33-year-old Brown stunned many when he tore off his tank top, slammed his shoulder pads down on the sideline and then threw his gloves and top into the stands.
The seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver then walked shirtless across the pitch while the match was still being played, gave a peace sign to spectators and duly disappeared down the tunnel to the locker room, much to the amazement of those in attendance – and the millions watching live on the box.
As exits go, it was one of the most bizarre in modern sport. Stadium security staff were so bemused that they were even about to tackle the player, believing he was a fan who had burst onto the pitch.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians confirmed with the media after the match that Brown was no longer with the team.
"He is no longer a Buc. That's the end of the story," Arians said.
Credit to the Bucs, then, who put the unwanted distraction aside and showed incredible character to complete a commendable 28-24 comeback win. It perhaps proves that the Bucs are better off without Brown, a colourful character with a worrying list of grievous off-field sins throughout his troubled career.
As you might have guessed by now, this is not the first time Brown has found himself in hot water – with both club and the authorities. And, despite NFL legend and Bucs teammate Tom Brady having been his No 1 advocate, Brown seemingly hasn’t learnt from his mistakes.
Brady offered his unwavering support to Brown after the incident, but even the sport’s greatest star admitted his former teammate only had himself to blame.
“I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it," said Brady.
"We all love him, we care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best, and unfortunately it won't be with our team.”
“I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening."
Brown’s selfish antics made a mockery of his team and now, after only just returning from a three-game suspension for allegedly selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards and violating Covid-19 protocols, his stuttering career is at a worrying crossroads. He penned a one-year deal with the Bucs in the off-season, but the club have arguably bitten off more than they can chew having brought in such a divisive character.
The player previously pleaded no contest to burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief, after an altercation with a delivery truck driver. He served two years of probation, underwent a psychological evaluation and follow-up treatment, attended an anger management course, performed 100 hours of community service and followed a stay-away order from the truck driver and the moving company owner.
Brown also has a history of personal conduct issues and bizarre behaviour. He was released by the New England Patriots after one game in 2019 following allegations of sexual misconduct and sending intimidating text messages. He settled the civil dispute in April last year, but the terms were not disclosed.
New England had acquired Brown after he was released by the then-Oakland Raiders before he played in a game due to multiple controversies. And for many worried onlookers, now is the time for the sportsman to get some professional help.
Respected CNN commentator Bakari Sellers didn’t mince his words when summing up the unsavoury incident.
“Antonio Brown is unstable and needs mental health treatment,” warned Seller. “The league doesn't care as long as he runs routes and catches passes.
“Without immediate help and no football, bad things could happen. Someone needs to wrap their arms around him.
“It isn't a question of if Antonio Brown needs help, it's who will step up and make sure he gets it.
“For all the world to see, one of the league's 'stars' broke down and it's time the NFL steps up to support mental health and all those who suffer.”
A view shared by NFL analyst Ross Tucket, who added: “[I] Expressed significant concern about Antonio Brown's health over two years ago. The man needs help."
Antonio Brown’s troubled timeline
October 2018: Sued after allegedly throwing items off an apartment balcony.
November 2018: Found guilty of speeding at over 100 mph and fined for reckless driving.
September 2019: Britney Taylor, Brown's former trainer, filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted her on three occasions.
September 2019: A second woman accuses Brown of sexual misconduct. Brown and the alleged victim settled in 2021.
January 2020: Brown pleads no contest after attacking a truck driver. Receives community service, psychological counselling and anger management.
December 2021: Brown is suspended three games by the NFL for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status.
January 2022: Sensationally quits mid-game live on TV and Bucs career ended.