NFL

The case for treating Antonio Brown with compassion, empathy

Jan 2, 2022, 8:01 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2022, 1:10 pm

I’m worried for Antonio Brown.

The now-former Buccaneers wide receiver is not someone who a lot of people find easy to root for, especially after his spectacle Sunday in Tampa Bay’s win over the New York Jets.

Brown is “no longer a Buc,” said Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians, after a mid-game incident in which he reportedly refused to go into play, took off his shoulder pads and undershirt and walked off the field.

Stadium security told ESPN they initially thought Brown was a fan who leaped onto the field, saying that once he was in the tunnel, he asked state troopers for a ride to the airport. They declined.

Social media posts dug up by the New York Post appear to show Brown departing from MetLife Stadium with a private New York City driver.

In his first social media post after the incident, Brown posted a photo of him in a Buccaneers jersey with text saying, among other things, “Thanks for the opportunity.”

This is a situation that’s easy to mock. You can’t miss the memes on Instagram and hot takes on Twitter.

Laughing at this takes no effort.

ESPN Stats & Info drudged up the lengthy list of Brown’s past transgressions … because I guess off-field incidents is something they’re charged with keeping track of now.

“He quit,” a source told ESPN about Brown.

It’s easy to feel irked or enraged. Certainly, Arians couldn’t hide his displeasure.

It’s easy to pile on.

What’s hard is to have empathy. To show compassion.

“We all love him. We care about him deeply,” Bucs quarterback Tom Brady said after the game. “We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately, it won’t be with our team.”

Brady added: “I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”

Tampa Bay running back Le’Veon Bell, who played with Brown on the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he found out about the situation when he got into the locker room at the end of the game.

“I instantly sent him a text, to try to catch up with him real quick. Obviously, he texted me back, and I talked to him. He still one of my close friends. Like you won’t hear me talking bad about AB at all,” Bell said. “Obviously, I understand, things happen, but he’s one of my closest friends I’ve been around, a close teammate — overall a good person. Some bad decision-making at times, but he’s human, not perfect, and we’ll continue to move on without him and keep moving forward.”

We don’t know the circumstances behind Sunday’s outburst or why Brown felt the need to walk away from his team — and a considerable amount in bonuses.

And absolutely don’t make this out as an excuse for Brown’s previous past behavior — sometimes criminal in nature.

But having a bit of experience dealing with mental health issues, it felt more like a gut punch to me watching Brown meltdown on the sideline than a punchline.

It costs us nothing to have empathy for people going through a rough spot, even if it’s their own fault.

It costs us nothing to feel compassion for someone at their lowest point — or in some cases points.

So, here’s hoping Antonio Brown finds his way back to whatever path he needs to be on.

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The case for treating Antonio Brown with compassion, empathy