“Release me @raiders #NOMore #theyputblindersonahorseforareason #NoMoreFake”
That’s how NFL pro and now-former Raider Antonio Brown capped off the Sept. 7 Instagram post that spelled the end of his time in Oakland. The fiery wide receiver joined his new team in March during the off-season after spending months burning bridges with his former squad, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown’s hashtags and caption appeared below an Insta post that seemed to suggest where his head was at. The black text-on-white background image read simply: “You are gonna piss a lot of people off when you start doing what’s best foryou.”
Hours before the “release me” post materialized, Brown seemed to be forecasting the circus that awaited him on Saturday. A Friday evening Insta contained the snippet of a phone call he’d had with Raiders coach Jon Gruden, seemingly related to Brown’s ongoing struggles to get with the team’s program (more on that below).
Accompanying the clip, which was set to video and featured a dramatic orchestral swell behind the chatter, Brown seemed to make it clear that he wanted to move on.
With all these false narratives antagonizing me, it’s time for me to control my own narrative. Show the world I’m not the bad guy. Show the world you can free yourself from the lies and become your own person. I am not just AB the football player, I am Antonio Brown, the person, who paved a way for himself to be in charge of his own life. Watch for yourself. Link in bio. Free me!
While the twin Instagram posts were no doubt the last straw for Brown’s time in Oakland, they came after months of turmoil.
In a saga that started back in May 2019, Brown was unhappy after a change in NFL policy meant that he would no longer be able to use his longtime helmet. Reports from the Raiders’ pre-season OTAs (organized team activities) brought word that Brown had ditched practice and then tried to sneak his helmet back onto the field by repainting it.
The helmet drama continued behind the scenes for the next two months, with Brown pledging at one pointto never play againif he couldn’t keep his helmet. During that time, the wide receiver also managed to sustain an injury when he used a cryotherapy machine without proper footwear.
Things seemed to calm down after that, at least for a time. Brown had a helmet that passed muster and his frostbitten feet were a non-issue. Then, just this past week and with days to go before the Raiders season opener against the Denver Broncos, calamity struck.
Brown reportedly had some kind of heated confrontation with Mike Mayock, Oakland’s newly hired general manager. The outcome of the meeting — during which Brown supposedlythreatened to hit Mayock— was a team-imposed suspension.
It didn’t last. Less than 24 hours later, the never-officially-confirmed suspension was tossed out after Brown delivered what was described as an“emotional apology.”Just so we’re all clear on the timeline here, that report emerged on the morning of Friday, Sept. 6 — hours before Brown’s “free me/release me” posts, and hours more before he was kicked off the team.
In the hours after Brown’s release, the people of Twitter had all sorts of things to say. Unlike Andrew Luck’s recent and unexpected decision to retire, Brown’s antics and subsequent exit from the Raiders — and potentially from football as a whole, though it’s likelysome team out thereis still willing to give him money — was easy fodder for snark.
In regard to Bills’ interest in signing Antonio Brown, team source replies (and I’m copying and pasting the exact text):
— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham)September 7, 2019
Say what you will about Antonio Brown, but he was with the Oakland Raiders for 180 days, or 18x longer than Anthony Scaramucci was at the White House, or approx. 18 scaramuccis.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer)September 7, 2019
Lots of people seem to think Brown will get a chance to play for the New England Patriots, which would leave him following in the footsteps of another former Raider. In 2007, elite wide receiver Randy Moss went to the Pats in a trade.
Although it is known that Moss was unhappy in Oakland, the situation with Brown is quite different. That didn’t stop Twitter from weighing in on what a signing with the Patriots might look like.
The NFL has all sorts of issues when it comes to questions of rewarding (or at least not punishing) bad behavior, player exploitation, and safety issues. For all we know, Brown’s erratic behavior is a product of the many hits he’s taken over the course of his career as a pro.
That said, his whole saga with the Raiders is over-the-top even for the NFL. Brown’s story might not be over, but you can bet the Raiders organization is pleased at the idea of it playing out somewhere other than Oakland.