As the last Sunday without football until the non-Pro Bowl unfolds, there's a new #longread about the short tenure of former NFL receiver Antonio Brown as the owner of an indoor football team.
Brown invested in, and eventually took over, the Albany Empire. On his watch, the franchise was run straight into the ground.
Nothing in the story from ESPN.com is surprising, beyond the fact that ESPN.com felt compelled to devote so much time and so many words to such a sad, predictable, and tired subject. Beginning with the moment he learned the Steelers had named JuJu Smith-Schuster and not him the team MVP for the 2018 season, Brown became a tempest in a T-shirt.
From his effort to agitate his way out of Pittsburgh to his frozen feet and ill-fitting helmet with the Raiders to his effort to agitate his way out of Oakland to his short stint with the Patriots to his short-lived salvation with the Bucs to his striptease sayonara at MetLife Stadium and plenty of other stuff (lawsuits, sexual-assault allegations, a suspension, criminal assault charges, and more), Brown has had what should have been the final chapters of a Hall of Fame career become a nightmare of a novella as to all the things a guy can do to turn his life inside out and upside down.
Brown's final exit from football came in the spring, as he applied the many erratic behaviors of the past four years to a team in the National Arena League. Shockingly (actually, not), Brown made bad decisions (including insisting that the team practice in Albany, which carried a $1.5 million workers compensation tab), Brown didn't pay bills, and Brown made idle threats to those who challenged him.
The most bizarre aspect of the new story relates to players raising directly with Brown the team's failure to properly pay tribute to Mo Ruffins, a former Empire offensive lineman who died in 2022. Things allegedly got heated, with Brown saying to an assistant, "Hey, man, you still got the AR in the car? Go get it."
Brown also bristled at efforts by players to get paid for their work. Money is still allegedly owed, and litigation could be coming.
Again, none of it is surprising. The only surprise is that people still seem to be surprised by any of this — and that media outlets feel compelled to devote resources to a failed former football player who is acting in a manner consistent with his current character.
The only real question is whether Brown (as he recently suggested on social media) is suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, or whether he's got an incurable case of asshole-itis. If it's the former, we hope he finally gets the help he needs. If it's the latter, let me know if there's a treatment. (#AskingForAFriend.)