Opinion: Keep Antonio Brown out of the NFL, but give him the support he needs


Credit: Genevieve Morrison

WSPN’s Emily Roberge discusses NFL player Antonio Brown’s recent controversy and rumors surrounding his mental health.

Emily Roberge

I’ve always been a stickler for giving everyone a second chance. I’m not perfect, so how can I expect others to be? We are human–we are destined to mess up–that’s just how life goes. However, like everyone else, there comes a point when I can’t offer any more forgiveness or pity. Antonio Brown has hit that point for me.

As an avid NFL fan, I love following each player and learning about their background. There’s only so much that can be seen on the field: a player’s aggression, game statistics and attitude are a few. However, a lot goes on behind closed doors. Like any sport, athletes must dedicate everything to their profession. For football players, this means sacrificing their bodies, their schedules and possibly their brain health. And this is all for what? An average of 3.3 years in the NFL? It’s absolutely grueling.

Funny enough, Brown wasn’t always the “AB” that we know him to be today. Rather, he had a more humbling induction into the NFL. As a sixth round, 185th overall draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft from Central Michigan University, the Steelers scooped him up as a possible wide receiver. The seven-time Pro-Bowler didn’t have the fame, the media and the league talking about him when he entered, he wasn’t handed an endless amount of chances and he had to make a name for himself when no one knew who he was. I admired him for that.

However, all too often we fail to take into consideration the actions of our favorite athletes off the field. If they are earning points for our fantasy teams, and we are buying their jerseys for our relatives as holiday gifts, why would we care to look into the things they do off the field? Eventually, the football pads will come off, and all they will have left is their character. I used to be more ignorant. I used to not care until I witnessed the repeated actions of Brown; actions that have not only hurt his career, but many around him.

Many believe his erratic behavior started with a hit in the head from former Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burflict during the 2016 AFC Wild Card Game. There are some rumors swirling around that this was the beginning of his CTE, a brain degeneration that is a result of extreme head trauma. Therefore, the catalyst to the years of troublesome behavior that followed. I don’t doubt at all this is a factor to his poor decision making. However, CTE is definitely not the only contributor to his bad decisions.

Brown has been given too many redos. He skipped work and fought with the GM of the Raiders. He was given a second chance in New England, where the Patriots would cut him from the team after sexual assault allegations. He then was given a third chance in Tampa Bay, where he faced suspension for making a fake vaccination card. Then, he was given a fourth chance by Tampa Bay. This only ended when he stormed off the field on Jan. 2 when the Buccaneers played the New York Jets, virtually self-detonating his career. If it wasn’t for his storming off the field, though, how many more chances would he have been given? I’d say another six.

Not only has he forever damaged the lives of his sexual assault survivors, but he has managed to be above the law. The NFL is to blame. They are responsible for the havoc that Brown wreaked on the league, and until his most recent outburst, they didn’t seem to care. Football always trumps morality in the NFL world, and I don’t see this changing soon. Even my favorite player of all time, former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, is to blame as he continuously relied on Brown for success despite what went on off the field. Even though it’s uncomfortable, we have to hold even our most beloved players accountable.

The most troubling part of this all is that Brown doesn’t seem to care. He doesn’t feel any remorse for throwing off his jersey mid-game and giving up on his team when they needed him most, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of his past decisions. Rather than focusing on his mental health, Brown persists that he is all about “his mental wealth.” I don’t buy it. He needs to get the mental health help he deserves, no matter if I love him or hate him.

I hope I never see Brown on an NFL field again. I hope the NFL doesn’t give in to talent and let mistakes disintegrate for profit and media attention. Lastly, I hope that Brown receives the mental health services he needs before it is too late.