Trade rumors surrounding Russell Wilson have been all but silenced, but that hasn’t kept the QB from making headlines recently. For the second time in as many seasons, he’s clamoring for the Seahawks to bring in Antonio Brown. It appears Seattle may be listening this time, as they reportedly have shown interest in signing him.
Brown’s string of off-field debacles nearly derailed his career, but the Buccaneers gave him another chance last season. It paid off for them, as his connection with Tom Brady helped Tampa Bay win a Lombardi Trophy. Brown avoided drama along the way by claiming to be a changed man who has learned from his mistakes.
“Mistakes.” however, are not at all an accurate descriptor for Brown’s pattern of reckless and malicious behavior. It’s hard to see how he can truly have changed when he’s shown little remorse for his actions and made no amends to the people he’s hurt the most. His newfound humility is an act to further his career, like a petulant child playing nice so he can get back a confiscated toy. By signing Antonio Brown, the Seahawks would not only be condoning his past conduct, but also inviting blame for his future “mistakes.”
Why Everyone Loses if the Seahawks Sign Antonio Brown
From a football standpoint
Let’s get this point out of the way quick, because it’s by far the least important. The on-field fit does make sense given Seattle’s need for a proven slot receiver after David Moore’s departure. Adding a four-time All-Pro in Antonio Brown would unquestionably give the Seahawks the league’s best trio of wideouts. However, his game has started to show some cracks as he enters his age-33 season. There’s a strong likelihood he wouldn’t be as valuable as his name would suggest.
In his last season in Pittsburgh, some of Brown’s key stats fell off from his previous All-Pro level. He posted only 7.7 yards per target and a catch percentage of 61.9%, both the second-worst totals of his career. Pittsburgh quarterbacks combined for 17 interceptions on the year; 11 of those occurred when throwing in Brown’s direction. He managed to get his hands on a few more passes in Tampa (Tom Brady will do that for you), but didn’t do all that much with them, recording his worst yards per reception total since his rookie year. He also managed only 81 postseason receiving yards, sixth-best on the team and just one yard ahead of Scotty Miller. He’s still a talented player, but the potential to overpay him is much greater than his chances of returning value.
From a legal standpoint
Seattle has a recent in-house cautionary tale of a talented wide receiver with a history of off-field issues. Josh Gordon’s struggles with addiction are well-documented, and kept him from making an impact in two years in Seattle. He left the team with just seven catches for 139 yards to show for their investment (although a reunion could still be in the cards).
Gordon differs from Antonio Brown in that he absolutely deserved the chance to revive his career with the Seahawks, as he’s never willfully endangered anyone but himself. Brown can’t say the same. In 2018, he nearly hit a toddler with furniture he hurled from a high-rise window while trashing his condo. His eight-game suspension in 2020 resulted from a battery case that also landed him in an anger-management course and two years of probation.
He’s also an accused sexual predator, facing allegations from two different women. A civil lawsuit from Brown’s former trainer Britney Taylor accuses him of sexually harassing, assaulting and eventually raping her on three separate occasions from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, an artist Brown hired to paint a mural in 2017 claims he made unwanted sexual advances towards her while she was working in his home.
Brown has denied any wrongdoing, but the evidence doesn’t appear to be in his favor. The fact that his lawyer walked away from the Taylor case due to “irreconcilable differences” is a huge red flag. His new legal team recently tried and failed to block Taylor from issuing subpoenas to Brown’s former employers. He also sent threatening messages to the artist after she made her story public, which included PICTURES OF HER CHILDREN. Even if she had made up the story for money as Brown maintains (she never sought any compensation), implying something could happen to her kids in retaliation is far, far worse.
Brown’s trial will last from December 6th through the 17th, taking him out for two weeks of the NFL season. The league is still conducting their own investigation as well, so another suspension could come at any time. All odds point towards Brown missing significant time in the near future, something any interested team has to consider.
From a PR standpoint
The previous section isn’t an exhaustive list of his off-field misconduct, but I could only squeeze in so many words. Brown has also built up a reputation as a locker room cancer, clashing with team personnel at almost every stop.
He feuded with teammates on multiple occasions in Pittsburgh, in particular going after Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster for what amounted to getting more credit for the team’s success. In Oakland, a bizarre string of incidents, including frostbitten feet and retirement threats over a helmet, led up to Brown’s loss of nearly $30 million in guaranteed money and eventual release. The Patriots then signed and quickly released him after details of his sexual assault allegations came to light.
All these incidents and more created media headaches for those teams, ranging from unwelcome distractions to harsh criticism. When Brown makes headlines again, the Seahawks would be inexorably linked with all the press he receives. No one would mention “former Buccaneer Antonio Brown” or even “former NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown,” they’d say “Seahawks wide receiver Antonio Brown.” Given the team’s choice to sign him despite his well-known character issues, there wouldn’t be anyone jumping to their defense.
From a fan standpoint
It’s amazing how far fans will go to defend awful people when they play for their favorite team. If Brown does sign with the Seahawks, many fans will try their best to justify the move. They’ll claim he is indeed a changed man, poke holes in his accusers’ stories or say he’s already paid his dues with his loss of earnings. (He’s still made over $7.5 million the last two years.)
Per a 2015 CDC study, an estimated 25.5 million U.S. women reported experiencing rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Less than 1% of those crimes ended in a felony conviction for the offender. Many of those same women are football fans, watching Brown and other alleged sex offenders in the NFL continue to make millions of dollars while facing little to no discipline for their actions. The Seahawks can’t change any of this by passing on Brown, but they can avoid sending the message that it doesn’t matter as long as he can help the team on the field.
Now that Brown has his Super Bowl ring, the right thing for him to do is hang up the cleats. His football career is distracting him from his personal issues, not the other way around. Without football in the way, he can focus on making amends to the people he’s hurt and seeking professional help. Prolonging his career at this point will only continue to prove how great Antonio Brown is at running away.