Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown (AB)

I have always had a strong sense of humor, as those who know me personally or follow my writings can attest, and at times, I've been known to initially laugh at matters that I later realized weren't funny at all. For example, in the early 80's, on a spring evening when the sun still shone brightly through the windows in our family room around 7pm, the Hobbs Clan was watching 60 Minutes on CBS and a segment about a child whose parents had to place a football helmet on his head to keep him from beating himself to death on the fireplace. A then 9-year-old “Chuckie” burst out laughing, which prompted my father to frown and exclaim “good night young man;” off I went to bed with no dessert because as Dad often told me, I needed to be careful about all of “that skinning and grinning” lest “white folks will think you crazy."

More on that last sentence later in today's blog...

This past Sunday, the "chuckles" immediately erupted for me when I saw Antonio Brown (AB), the gifted wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throw down his pads and sling his t-shirt and gloves into the stands before skipping and jogging into the locker room—and out of the stadium—while his teammates fought back to win their game against the NY Jets.

True to form, my initial humor gave way to my serious pondering what could have set AB off like that on the sidelines? Two days later, I still don't know for sure whether AB was ordered back into the game by his coach, Bruce Arians, and upon his refusal to play, removed his gear and quit before millions watching on TV? Or, whether AB, a wanna-be-rapper, carefully orchestrated his exit to coincide with a song that dropped later that day? Or, whether the truth falls somewhere in between?

What I do know is that within the mainstream media, social media, and in private conversations among family and friends, folks are still pondering: 

1. Is AB crazy, like legit crazy?

2. Is AB crazy like a fox and leveraging his post NFL career?

3. Is AB suffering from CTE?

4. Are all of the above true, with a dose of AB not giving a damn about what anyone thinks of him or his antics as he breaks free from the "massa's," I meant “owners,” NFL grips?

If I was playing quiz bowl and given these choices in a bonus question, I would likely choose #4. 

Now, in making that choice, I must first state that I do not hold AB out to be some modern day Nat Turner or Frederick Douglass who is exposing the latent and blatant aspects of white supremacy within the NFL system. No, that designation belongs to Brothers like Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin, men who have used their platforms to push for social justice reforms from a league that is dominated by Black players—but play for white owners that cater to their predominantly white game day patrons and viewers across the globe. 

No, AB has a history of being a purveyor of violence against Black women and men and has even plead no-contest to burglary—while in the NFL. Now, were those criminal and tortious acts from his past a result of some level of mental illness? Possibly, although I submit that the times within which mental illness absolves men and women for intentional crimes are relatively rare in courts across America. But as I wrote yesterday, if there is mental illness or CTE at play in all of AB's fights, assaults, sexual assaults and the like, unless and until he chooses to get help, help will not just show up at his door. 

Still, when ESPN's Sportscenter posted the photo below of AB chillin’ courtside at the Brooklyn Nets game last night—a day after bailing on his teammates during a crucial late season game, I could not help but conclude that AB might need some help or, he just might have reached the point where he no longer cares to play football—or cares about what the Bucs owners, operators, or the viewing public thinks of him?

There's a lot to unpack in this last notion, but as one of my fellow Morehouse Florida Boyz and Frat Brother Dr. Michael Brooks (psychologist and full professor at North Carolina A&T) asked on his Facebook page on Sunday: "Has anyone else ever wanted to quit their job like AB did?" Brother Brooks's post was a humorous query, but I can only answer for myself that yes, I once left a job where I gave a boss a very strong piece of my mind—and felt totally at peace while unloading my verbal volleys. I was 32 then, around the same age as AB (33), but looking back now at the age of 49, I realize that while my feelings were spot on that day, how I handled it was tactless and in extremely poor taste. 

Another difference in my situation at age 32 and AB's current situation is that the boss that I ripped into was a Black man; AB's bosses and team owners are white. Such reverts back to the whole “white folks gon' think you crazy" aspect that I raised above and, the respectability tropes that have informed how many Blacks cringe when "scenes" and "meltdowns" from Brothas and Sistas occur in the public square.

Judging from the anecdotal evidence on my social media pages, many of my Black friends posted comments that relate to this trope, the very one that our ancestors developed and used to protect themselves and their descendants from being sold off, beaten, or killed by whites who "think they crazy." Such was a survival tactic then and, in some ways, even now when considering that from scholastic and professional disciplinary settings to courts of law, that punishments that are meted out still are often disparate according to race. 

And yet, perhaps AB, a young man who has already accrued significant wealth, merely reached his breaking point with sacrificing his body in a brutal game that pays handsomely but alas, said "enough” and acted out his "enough” just as he saw fit—much as I shunned my high vocabulary for my most base and gutteral words with my boss 17-years ago?

If it's the latter, that AB no longer cares what Tom Brady, the legendary quarterback who befriended and went to bat for him, thinks—or what his coach or team owners think about his exit Sunday afternoon, if he is comfortable with the end result, then we should be comfortable with it, too!

The simple truth is that each of us is given free will to act within our lives and with regards to the speculation about AB's mental health status, I suppose time will reveal whether he is infirm. Or, maybe not? Whatever the result may be, I conclude that AB's choices were and remain his crosses to bear, and as we watch him (or not) in the days ahead, I hope that the "white folks gon' think he crazy" piece is put to rest—especially when considering that "crazy" and mental health concerns know no color.

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