Updated Jan. 7, 2022 12:44 p.m.
On Jan. 2, 2022, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets in a Week 17 matchup. The Buccaneers were 11-4 and had already clinched the NFC South division, while the Jets were 4-11 and limping to the end of the NFL season.
Despite the gap in records between the two teams, the Jets began hot, leading the Bucs, 17-10, at halftime. In the first 30 minutes, Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown was targeted 5 times by quarterback Tom Brady, completing 3 catches for 26 yards.
Halfway through the third quarter, Brown had not been targeted again. With the Jets up, 24-10, under four minutes to go in the third quarter, and Tampa Bay driving down the field, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians alerted Brown that he was to go into the game. Brown refused. Arians told him again, and Brown refused once again, leading to Arians to tell him to “get out” and leave the sidelines.
Saying Brown didn’t take kindly to this exchange would be an understatement. Despite interjection from teammate and fellow wideout Mike Evans, Brown began to undress on the sidelines. He took off his jersey and shoulder pads, tossing both towards the Bucs bench. He then took off his gloves and undershirt, throwing both into the stands. Brown proceeded to walk across the Tampa Bay end zone during the middle of a live play, and he gave a peace sign to the crowd before disappearing into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms.
Despite the deficit in the game and the extra curricula on the sidelines, the Buccaneers would come back to win the game, 28-24, culminating in a go-ahead touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. This would move the Bucs to a 12-4 record, while the Jets fell to 4-12.
Even with the spectacular comeback, all questions in the post-game press conference focused on Brown. When asked about Brown, Arians stated that, “He is no longer a Buc. That’s the end of the story. Let’s talk about the guys that went out there and won the game.”
Brady, when asked about his teammate, said it was a “difficult situation” with Brown. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately it won’t be with our team.”
After the game, Brown took to social media, posting the following cryptic tweet:
Although Arians announced the Buccaneers’ intentions to release Brown, his departure from the team wasn’t made official until four days later on Jan. 6.
Since walking off the field, Brown has been adamant that the episode was caused due to a disagreement in his health. Brown claimed that Arians and the team was making him play injured. Prior to his release on Jan. 6, Brown unveiled on Twitter text messages between him and Arians:
Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, also released a statement on behalf of Brown, claiming that Tampa Bay knew about Brown’s ankle injury but still forced him to play:
“Antonio Brown never faked an injury in his life,” said Burstyn. “It is incredible that people are pushing false rumors that what happened Sunday was the result of mental health issues and not a well known ankle injury. Mental health is important, but so is basic dignity.”
This is not the first issue Brown has had while in the NFL. In 2016, after the Pittsburgh Steelers, his team at the time, won their Wild Card game against the Miami Dolphins, Brown was caught live streaming head coach Mike Tomlin’s post-game locker room speech to his social media accounts.
In 2018, Brown skipped practices, leading to his benching during the Steelers’ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown was infuriated with this, demanding a trade to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason.
Halfway through the 2019 season, Brown demanded to be released from the Raiders after a string of fines for equipment issues, skipping practices, and heated arguments with Raider administration. After being picked up for one game with the New England Patriots, Brown was again released after sexual and personal misconduct issues arose.
Earlier in the 2021 season, Brown was suspended three games for violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols due to submitting a fake vaccination card to the league.
This article will continue to be updated as new information is provided.
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