Get over it.
That was the message the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recipient, Antonio Brown, attempted to convey over the past week.
The past doesn’t matter, he seemed to be saying. With the Super Bowl, the only worry should be that he could catch passes on Sunday.
Brown’s favorite topics of conversation were his love for quarterback Tom Brady, his team’s urge to beat the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, and his comeback.
This comeback didn’t involve an injury that eroded his electrifying talent in the field. Those skills have remained intact enough for 32-year-old Brown to find a plush spot in the NFL, despite the story he refused to discuss at a required press conference prior to the Super Bowl.
“I would be doing a disservice if I talked about things that are not the focus of this game,” he said said.
One of those things is the withering up of verbal abuse directed against the mother of three of his children that is videotaped. And one allegation of sexual harassment mentioned in a national magazine. And a threatening one Lawsuit accusing him of rape, a claim Brown has vociferously denied.
Now he’s one Winning a championship ring after problems off the field put his career in one of the most formidable falls a star athlete has seen in recent years.
Tampa Bay played at him in ways no other team dared, and Brown signed a one-year deal in October after being out of the game for a year and a half. The Buccaneers ignored commentators who, given the pattern of anger around Brown, said he needed time outside of the league – possibly forever, but at least until his lawsuit was resolved.
The team also chose to look beyond the #MeToo movement and its basic tenet: women with stories of pain and powerlessness dealing with famous men should be heard and taken seriously.
Remember that one in four women will be abused by intimate partners during their lifetime, according to a government report. Let’s think about what they endure every time they see athletes like Brown on the field with unsolved allegations.
Let’s listen to Brenda Tracy, who describes herself as a survivor of a 1998 rape by a group of men that included two Oregon state soccer players. The players have not been charged with criminal charges, but have been suspended by the coach for making “a bad choice”. Tracy became an advocate for abused women and worked towards change by sharing her story with anyone who will listen. Colleges across the country have hired her to speak to their sports teams.
“I won’t see the Super Bowl this year,” she told me. “With Antonio Brown out there, it’s just too much.”
Before the big game, Brown characterized himself as a changed man – humble, grateful and under control.
He spoke in soft, careful tones. He made the feeling that he sees the allegations as a chance to prove he can overcome adversity, mainly by catching Brady’s passports.
“I want my legacy to be a man who is persistent, a man who never gave up, no matter the odds, no matter the hatred,” Brown said.
What he really wanted was to keep going.
Let’s not. Let’s look at the claims made by a personal trainer named Britney Taylor in the lawsuit.
In court records, Taylor said Brown attacked her twice in 2017. She also claimed that Brown raped her in 2018.
Through his legal team, the broad recipient has denied the allegations. He countered and accused Taylor of defamation. Brown and Taylor were in a “friendly personal relationship,” his attorney said in a statement.
It is important to remember that legal proceedings can still be avoided if the two parties reach an agreement. It is not a criminal case that Brown would see the possibility of jail.
But Britney Taylor is not alone.
In an article in Sports Illustrated, an artist made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Brown. The broad recipient also once targeted the mother of three of his children with a profane tirade and then posted a video of the incident on social media.
On Twitter, he threatened a reporter from ESPN’s The Undefeated Who in 2018 wrote an article about Brown’s thorny personal life and the supercharged use of social media. Brown eventually apologized with a statement: “It’s not okay to threaten someone and I need to be better mentally and professionally.”
That year he also closed a lawsuit accusing him of throwing heavy furniture out of his 14th-floor apartment and nearly beating a toddler.
Brown’s angry behavior as a teammate prompted the Pittsburgh Steelers to trade him in for the Oakland Raiders in 2019. Shortly before the start of the season, the Raiders dropped him for similar reasons.
He landed briefly in New England, early in Brady’s last season with the Patriots. The lawsuit accusing Brown of rape soon went public, followed by the artist’s allegations of harassment. His third employer this year released him.
Brady, who recently said he and Brown “instantly bonded” in New England, endorsed Tampa Bay’s decision to bring the receiver on board mid-season. When Brown first arrived in town, he lived in Brady’s house.
But Brown and the buccaneers seem like an odd pairing. The team has two full-time coaches, and this season there have only been eight in the league as a whole. The Women’s Sports Foundation has recognized Trainer Bruce Arians for helping women in the NFL
But Arians have proven that talent matters more than principle.
Unfortunately, too often, that’s the bottom line for male stars in major sports. If you are accused of abusing or molested women and are easy to replace, your job is likely gone. No conviction, trial or arrest is required. (See Jared Porter, the former New York Mets general manager, who was fired after being accused of repeatedly sending inappropriate texts to a reporter.)
If you are a star, your entitlement is practically unlimited.
Brown signed with the Buccaneers shortly after completing an eight game ban for violating the league’s code of conduct. The reason for this penalty? He hadn’t spoken out against break-in and bodily harm after an argument with a truck driver.
He has had every opportunity over the past week to express remorse for this incident. He did not.
So let’s listen to women instead, people who aren’t in front of a huge global audience this weekend.
Mindy Murphy runs The Spring of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s largest domestic violence survivor shelter, home to the Buccaneers.
When the NFL tried to change its culture a few years ago after Baltimore Ravens, who ran back Ray Rice, was caught beating his fiancée, Murphy helped train the Buccaneers about abuse.
Now she’s disaffected.
Seeing Brown chase a Super Bowl ring is one “Disservice to what survivors have experienced,” she said. “When a team in the NFL says,” We’re going to hire him and he deserves a second chance, “or they say,” We don’t know exactly what happened because it happened behind closed doors, “they’re backing the idea that it is not a good idea to express yourself. “
Keep this in mind as you watch the buccaneers at the Super Bowl, and remember Brown’s past too.