The 2019 NFL season’s main storyline has not been about any particular player’s game or a team rising into the league’s top tier. Instead, the main storyline has been surrounded by drama about what a certain player thinks is best for his career.
In the span of one year, Antonio Brown has been on three different teams. On March 13, Brown was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders. He signed a three-year, $30.125 million contract. During his time with Oakland, he lost time in training camp due to frostbite on his feet from a cryotherapy mishap. He got upset that the NFL wouldn’t allow him to wear the helmet he’d been wearing for 10 years. He posted a video of a phone call between him and Head Coach Jon Gruden that showed the two arguing over whether he would play or not. Not even having played a game with the Raiders, the team released Brown on September 7.
Two days later, the New England Patriots picked him up and signed Brown to a one-year, $15 million contract. Not long after, two lawsuits were filed against Brown for sexual assault. Helmet manufacturer Xenith also ended their relationship with him. And Nike ended their partnership with Brown. He would play just one game with the Patriots (Week 2 vs. Miami, catching for 54 yards and a touchdown) before New England released him on September 20.
On September 22, Brown tweeted out that he “will not be playing in the NFL anymore.”
It’s an end to a long saga that we have seen all too many times: players controlling their own destinies, not giving a care in the world how it affects their current team they are on, and forcing their way out of situations they might feel uncomfortable in. For Brown, he was uncomfortable in Oakland. By not cooperating with team personnel who fined him for being a distraction, he whined and complained his way out of the situation.
We’ve seen this in the NBA so many times. For instance, in 2017 with Kyrie Irving, he became so unhappy only being the second face of the Cavaliers behind LeBron James, that he went to the team and ordered for them to trade him. Instead of sucking it up and potentially winning another title with James, he went to Boston, where there was discourse, and is now on his third team in Brooklyn.
Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard are recent players to do this. Kevin Durant did it to go play in Golden State. And now, it’s happening in the NFL. LeVeon Bell sat out an entire season just to be traded from the Steelers to the Jets. Jadeveon Clowney was unhappy in Houston, so they traded him to Seattle.
And it’s not just to go to a different team. Players are also forcing teams to give them more money in unconventional ways. Recently, Ezekiel Elliot sat out the entirety of Dallas’ training camp. The Cowboys needed him to play, so they made him the highest-paid running back ever just to come back and play for them.
It’s the new norm for the world of sports. Players are becoming their own general managers, and making loyalty to a team obsolete. Now you don’t even have to be a free agent to pick your own path. All you have to have is the mind of a 5-year-old to get your way in sports. Get used to it because we’re going to be seeing more of it.