The word is “enough.”
Enough of the non-denials. Enough of allowing this to linger. Enough of letting this dominate the conversation, particularly in a post-NFL Draft world with still no live sports for some time. Enough. Enough.
If the Baltimore Ravens are truly considering the possibility of signing Antonio Brown, they had better know something literally no one else in the country seems to know. If not, it would be a truly shameful moment for an organization that otherwise seems to have absolutely everything going for it right now.
And if the Baltimore Ravens really aren’t considering signing Antonio Brown (as so many of us have wanted to believe since these rumors started), it’s time to say something.
I haven’t felt the need to dive further into the Antonio Brown saga as it has unfolded because I had reason to believe it was a rather black-and-white situation. In January 2017, owner Steve Bisciotti declared “character is a pretty big pot, but some people we’re going to take off our board. That’s the way it goes. Domestic abuse? Not taking them. Kansas City is in the playoffs, partly because of a guy they took a chance on. Will we take chances like that again? I don’t think so.”
Pretty cut and dried, right? The Baltimore Ravens have made a definitive statement that there is a line for them (particularly in their post-Ray Rice life) and this is that line. If you cross it, you won’t play in Baltimore. That might give another teams competitive advantages (Bisciotti referenced the success the Chiefs have found with Tyreek Hill), but they’ll live with that. This is their line.
And, of course, it should be. As a civilized society, we should be capable of figuring out that not all mistakes are made equal. There should be a difference in whether a team would consider a player who was once guilty of, say, shoplifting or a player who has committed a violent and/or sexual crime against a woman. Human beings deserve second chances. But those second chances don’t have to come in Baltimore (or even the NFL, frankly).
Plenty of fans have reacted to Antonio Brown rumors by saying something along the lines of “I wouldn’t want him, he’s a locker room cancer,” or “he’s a ‘me first’ guy” or “he’s too much of a distraction.” I couldn’t think of more irrelevant arguments. Brown is obviously an overwhelming talent, which is why the best coach in football history (Bill Belichick) never cared about any of Brown’s “antics” from the end of his time in Pittsburgh or his short-lived trip to Oakland.
The Antonio Brown problem isn’t that he’s erratic. The Antonio Brown problem is very simple. The overwhelming evidence suggests that he’s committed at least one horrible crime against a woman (although obviously more allegations have been made).
Perhaps all of this has been manipulated somehow. Perhaps there is additional evidence that somehow proves Brown’s innocence. Of course, if that existed, it’s hard to fathom he’d remain unemployed some eight months after the Patriots parted ways with him. The NFL still hasn’t even had its say, and Brown’s legal issues appear to remain unresolved.
But most specifically, the public evidence would make this very cut and dried (and we’re not even getting into some of the awful things he did in the aftermath of this). This should be plain and simple. These types of actions SPECIFICALLY should disqualify anyone from being a Baltimore Raven. They should probably disqualify someone from playing in the NFL altogether, but I write columns in Baltimore and my kids are growing up to be Baltimore Ravens fans. I don’t want them to have to root for people who have done truly terrible things.
I admit that there is an amount of dissonance involved here. Certainly there have been other Ravens players over the years who may have done bad things and there simply wasn’t the amount of evidence for us to be able to convict them in our minds. And I absolutely would not feel this way had the worst of the allegations never been made about Brown. Had he simply been kind of a strange cat who got into a quarrel with his coach and quarterback and later made bizarre social media videos, I’d still take him on my team. He’s a hell of a football player and not every human being is perfect. I can deal with that.
But what we’ve believed to be the Ravens’ point of no return is violence toward women. The evidence we have makes it quite difficult for us to believe Brown isn’t guilty of sexual assault (and accused of rape). Unless they know something we don’t, seeing a text that states “I jack my dick on your back” should end the conversation. Full stop. No matter how much your quarterback and your top wide receiver want a player or perhaps think they know them better than other people do or maybe even privately vouch for how they’ve changed. This isn’t even a debate about whether we should always believe all allegations made by all women. This is a situation where we have an allegation and essentially an admission. Unless it can be proven that Brown didn’t actually send the text or that there is some other mitigating circumstance, the conversation should be over.
And that’s why the continued non-denials have been so puzzling (and now bordering on infuriating). The Ravens have decided that they simply wouldn’t answer questions about Brown now on multiple occasions. Instead they’ve made generic declarations about how they always look to improve their football team (of course they do … everyone does). They haven’t publicly tied themselves to interest in Brown (as they did a few years ago with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who while unpopular with some had objectively done absolutely nothing that should have fully disqualified him from football). But by continuing to not deny interest, they might as well have.
This is what national media is talking about. This has social media whipped into a frenzy because Brown is posting pictures of himself in a Ravens uniform on Snapchat. There is no factual reason for anyone to believe the Ravens are considering signing Antonio Brown, yet an overwhelming portion of the collective football world believes they are.
There was a weak argument before the NFL Draft that the Ravens welcome all misinformation because they want to keep all other teams off the scent in terms of what they might be doing. There is an opinion that they would never deny anything at all, because they want opposing teams to think there’s a possibility they might be signing Brown, perhaps helping to get a specific receiver to fall into their laps. The argument is weak because whatever minor advantage they gain shouldn’t outweigh the negativity of being the team that’s being directly tied to a seemingly terrible human being.
After the NFL Draft is over? Oh, there’s nothing to be gained. Perhaps you don’t want to offend your quarterback. Lamar Jackson has made it clear he’d like the team to sign his workout partner. Perhaps you don’t want to offend Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who would almost certainly love to team up with his actual cousin.
But if it is going to bother those players that the Ravens won’t sign Brown, they’re better off getting it out of the way now instead of closer to the start of the season. It’s hard to fathom such disappointment playing any real role in either player struggling on the field, but you’d still rather they make peace with it months before that even becomes a concern.
There’s just nothing to be gained. There’s no benefit. It only causes consternation with a fan base that has otherwise had no reason at all to complain for the better part of the last two years and has renewed its love affair with the franchise. Why risk that?
I’m not trying to be overly dramatic for the sake of being overly dramatic. Chiefs fans found a way to root for their team despite Hill’s presence. Chicago Cubs fans cheered when Aroldis Chapman helped them end their historic World Series drought. Signing Antonio Brown wouldn’t leave the Ravens without fans in the seats next season (although coronavirus might). But it would certainly cause a significant amount of damage for a percentage of the fan base.
And with nothing to be gained by non-denials, it’s time to put this to rest. I didn’t reach out to the Ravens for comment on this column because, frankly, they’ve made their comments. That’s why we’re here.
It’s time for that comment to be a denial. This isn’t fun. This is troubling. If they want to protect themselves, they can. It’s fair to say “short of new evidence that exonerates him, we aren’t considering Antonio Brown.”
And if the reason for the non-denials is because they actually ARE thinking about signing him, they deserve to have those words … “I jack my dick on your back” repeated over and over again.