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Column: Antonio Brown threatens to end NFL career, but some team looking for an edge will sign him

Receiver Antonio Brown prepares for his only game with the Patriots, against the Dolphins on Sept. 15, 2019.
Former Patriots receiver Antonio Brown went on a Twitter tirade Sunday morning, most of which he deleted.
(Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

When it comes to ranking diva receivers, Antonio Brown is officially the king of drama queens.

The most recent development — in which he threatened to leave the NFL for good and reenroll at Central Michigan — is about as believable as any proclamation that no owner will take a chance on him now.

This isn’t Ray Rice, whose diminished athleticism wasn’t worth the grief of signing. This is arguably the best at his position in the midst of a Twitter temper tantrum.

When the New England Patriots released him, the question of who will sign him next was more interesting than the news of his release. The Dallas Cowboys felt like the most talked-about destination and given Jerry Jones’ propensity to sign players with… uhm … stuff, that’s not a stretch. And there is little doubt that if word of Brown’s agent reaching out to the Cowboys became public, fans would be too busy arguing about Dallas’ odds of winning the Super Bowl than to care about why the receiver is in Texas.

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Kind of like how some USC fans want the school to replace Clay Helton with Urban Meyer despite the well-documented ick factor that tends to follow the latter nearly everywhere he goes. That’s because fans know what else follows Meyer — wins. And fans, like owners and school boosters, want to win more than they want to look good. So when Brown catches a pair of touchdowns and maybe paraphrases a Bible verse or two in the post-game interview, announcers will start characterizing Brown as “redeemed.” Just as the sins of Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger, and numerous others were washed away by outstanding performances on the field because when it comes to sports, winning is the best look of all.

It can be frustrating for those who believe good guys can finish first. It’s par for the course for those of us who know the truth: There are no good guys. At least not in the pure, mythological sense media-friendly athletes are presented as. There are only guys whose shortcomings bother us less than others.

So there are athletes who are likable, gentlemanly, etc., but that doesn’t mean unsettling compromises haven’t been made along the way. Greeting matters of importance with silence is not the hallmark of a mythological hero. It’s the calling card of human frailty and complicity — a duet we all have danced to at some point in order to enjoy our good fortune in peace.

Whatever that word “peace” means to us.

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Barring criminal investigation, Brown will be back in the NFL. And the owner of the team who signs him will have peace about it … whatever that word “peace” means to him.

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Take, for example, Anthony Joshua. He is widely considered to be a “good guy” and yet he agreed to have his next fight in Saudi Arabia, a country where the sentence for being gay starts at public lashing and can end in execution.

How about Roger Federer?

He too is considered a “good guy” despite opting to participate in a tournament held in the United Arab Emirates, a country routinely chastised by the United Nations for human rights violations, including 21-hour workdays for migrants who sometimes are not even paid.

Tom Brady is a “good guy” and he left three heart emojis on Brown’s Instagram post after the receiver was released. Think about that: A man is accused of making veiled threats that included images of his accuser’s children, and Brady sends love.

I’m sure Joshua, Federer and Brady all have peace about their decisions, whatever that word “peace” means to them. And fans will continue to have interest in whomever they are comfortable with because peace, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. O.J. Simpson has nearly a million followers on Twitter … I rest my case.

Yes, there are some truly heartwarming moments in sports, but there are no more “good guys” in sports than there are in politics, business or any other walk of life in which turning a blind eye to unpleasantness is an essential element to success. Strongly worded statements on the podium are rooted more in what we think should be said in the moment than a standard in which we should strive to live. At the end of the day if the benefits of ignoring wrongs outweigh the drawbacks of honoring the upright, the former is going to win.

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Brown didn’t create this paradigm, he’s just the most recent example of its existence. If he joins the Cowboys, Chiefs or some other team looking for an edge, this latest development will fade behind a cascade of confetti come February. And the fans of said team will have peace with it.


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