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Antonio Brown got what he wanted. Unless he didn’t.
The Buccaneers released Brown on Thursday, after Brown and his lawyer lobbied aggressively for that outcome. For example, they complained on social media that he’d been “caged.”
Now? Brown’s lawyer is complaining that the team released him too early.
Via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Sean Burstyn contends that the team scheduled a medical appointment for Brown “outside the normal business hours” with a New York doctor on Thursday morning. The plan was for Brown to see the orthopedic specialist selected by the team, but that the Bucs instead released Brown, with the timing of the appointment being a pretext for cutting Brown.
“We were in the midst of scheduling an appointment with the Bucs’ chosen doctor at [the Hospital for Special Surgery] when we learned, over Twitter, that the Bucs terminated Antonio on Thursday,’’ Burstyn told Stroud. “On Wednesday night, the Bucs concocted a bogus scheme to engineer a way to cut Antonio. They arbitrarily picked an appointment time outside of normal business hours early Thursday morning. We immediately spoke to the doctor and asked if he had reviewed recent MRIs and whether we could reschedule to a normal, reasonable hour. When the doctor said he had not yet seen the images and was graciously willing to see us at a normal time, we proceeded to rescheduling. Again, the Bucs fired Antonio for not showing up to a doctor’s appointment that was being rescheduled to later that same day. (And, yes, we have the texts proving exactly that.)
“The Bucs’ chosen time was pure gamesmanship. It was a pretextual termination to give them a reason to cut AB. They did this because they know that [coach] Bruce Arians’ on-the-field termination of AB was unlawful. So they tried covering it up using their latest dirty trick: ‘Surprise attack’ medical care that they never intended for AB to receive.”
This would all be extremely relevant and important if Brown didn’t belong to a union that had delegated the vast majority of his employment rights to an arbitration process that prevents him from securing the kind of financial relief (such as for emotional distress or punitive damages) that would be available in the court system. Brown will get everything he’s supposed to get by way of salary from the Buccaneers; there’s nothing else to pursue.
Either Burstyn doesn’t understand this, or he simply wants the free publicity that comes from spouting off about a decision for which his client clearly agitated on social media in the hours before it happened.
Players technically can’t be released while injured. But it happens. When it does, player and team negotiate what’s called an injury settlement, estimating the number of weeks he needs to get to the point that he’ll pass a physical and be able to play again. Absent an agreement on that point, a formal grievance is filed. Ultimately, an arbitrator decides whether the player was too injured to play, and when he would have been healthy.
For Brown, one week remained in the one-year deal that he signed in the offseason. He would have become a free agent in March if he hadn’t been cut. And because he wasn’t cut until Thursday, he’ll get his game check for Week 18.
Thus, even if the Bucs technically violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Brown has no path to any financial recovery. He can’t sue. (Well, he can — but it wouldn’t last long.) It’s just huffing and puffing from Burstyn, with no house to blow down.
Lawyer complains Buccaneers released Antonio Brown too early originally appeared on Pro Football Talk