NFL finds useful loophole to keep Antonio Brown unemployed

Getty Images

As the Scale of Sympathetic figures go, Antonio Brown falls far closer to O.J. Simpson than Homer. But this doesn’t mean that the former Steelers, Raiders, and Patriots receiver doesn’t have rights.

He does, as eventually will be evidenced by the umpteen grievances he’ll pursue against his two most recent teams, one or more of which (but not many) actually may prevail. He also has rights under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, rights that either will or won’t be honored during the ongoing investigation sparked by last month’s civil lawsuit filed against him, alleging sexual assault and rape.

There’s one right he doesn’t specifically have, but that all players should. Perhaps, in the next iteration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all players will have this right. It’s basically a right to not be, for lack of a better phrase, jerked around by a process that, as a practical matter, has him essentially serving an unpaid suspension while the NFL’s wheels of justice grind ever-so-slowly.

The report from earlier this week that Brown has yet to be interviewed is no surprise. The league interviews the accused as the final step of the investigation. And it’s unclear what else the league is doing to get to the point that Brown’s version of the events will be harvested. But it is clear that the league isn’t moving with all deliberate speed to get this wrapped up.

Intended or not, it’s a perfect loophole to keep Brown out of the league. Although multiple teams remain interested in Brown, no one will sign Brown because the NFL won’t say whether Brown is destined for the Commissioner-Exempt list, which would require his next team to pay him to not play.

So why not say so? Surely by now the NFL has enough information to determine whether Brown “may have violated” the Personal Conduct Policy. If so, then he’d be on the Commissioner-Exempt list if he’s signed. If not, he wouldn’t be — and someone would then potentially sign him and employ him until the investigation is finalized and discipline, if any, is imposed.

While the handling of Brown doesn’t amount to collusion in violation of the labor deal (e.g., the league office directing all teams not to sign a given player), it operates in the same way. Because the league won’t say whether Brown will be placed on unpaid suspension while he’s unemployed, no one will assume the risk of hiring him, taking the P.R. hit that would go along with it, and then having to decide whether to quickly cut him or pay him not to play, if he quickly lands on the Commissioner-Exempt list.

Again, no one is shedding tears for Brown. Even if he’s not guilty of sexual assault or rape, he has said and done enough to turn most fans against him. But there’s a broader principle at play here, one that can be used against any player — including players who haven’t seen their image and reputation completely disintegrate.

34 responses to “NFL finds useful loophole to keep Antonio Brown unemployed

  1. I somehow doubt that there are “multiple” teams interested in him. i guess you can never rule out one rogue owner, but there is no way multiple teams would sign up for this. If it didn’t work with the Patriots, who’s it going to work with? What owner wants to be his next Twitter target when it all blows up, as it will.

  2. I did not realize teams need a reason no to hire a mentally off-base player who will distract from the team mission and eventually walk out on the team when it suits his purposes.

  3. You cannot stop a person from working in his chosen profession. This is the same as a employer who has made employees sign a non compete contract will not hold up in court! Lawyers for Brown should be all over this. But that said I would doubt that there is 1 team that would sign him with his recent 3 team interaction. Even he hasn’t done any thing wrong in the eyes of law enforcement. 3 strikes and your out!

  4. Based upon reports of his behavior in the furniture throwing lawsuit deposition, not sure speaking to Brown will do the NFL much good anyway.

  5. Antonio Brown is the sole reason he’s unemployed. Don’t blame the NFL that this guy is a nut case.

  6. There is such a thing as a good loophole, and the league should always have one for this kind of case. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar product, and this loophole is an insurance policy to protect it from harm. Antonio Brown is harmful. He’s like a locust in a field of crops. You need to eradicate it before it starts destroying the crops. Sometimes dangerous chemicals are used to protect the crops, and nobody really likes these chemicals, but we need the crops. One locust, and then another, and another, and another, and then all the crops are gone. Nope. Gotta knock it out as soon as you see one. Destroy it. Get it out of the field. Let all the other locusts know what they’re in for if they want to come looking to destroy. And believe me, there are other locusts watching. Maybe one was spotted in Jacksonville and now another in Minnesota. In fact, I hope the league expands on these loopholes.

  7. Yeah I agree. No fan of Brown but the league has predicably dragged their feet and passed the buck when it comes to player discipline. They did the same thing with Zeke. Whether you agreed with the suspension or not there was no way it should have taken a year to figure it out. But what the league is really doing in these cases is not so much gathering information but consulting with their PR firm to determine what the public reaction will be and then making their decision accordingly.

  8. My guess is that, on an owners only communication, (no GM, Coach, etc.) they all know what you assume. That is,upon signing, Brown will automatically be on Commissioners List. BTW, I am hoping to see some apologies to Incognito, now that a much more complete evaluation on his former Miami teammate is known. That wouldn’t include you if you did not participate in the bashing, etc.

  9. Actually this is quite simple for poor poor misunderstood Antonio Brown – If there is a team interested in taking on the world’s biggest diva, AB should be willing to sign a contract whereby if he’s placed on the exempt list he forgoes any payment.

  10. Sounds like Brown was only able to play with the Patriots. Once they cut him, now the league doesn’t want anyone to sign him. If he was on the Patriot roster he would be suiting up today.

  11. He is not currently employed by the NFL or any of the 32 franchises. Hence, the NFL has no reason to investigate him any further. He is, however, available to be signed by any of the franchises. If this occurs, then the NFL will have standing to investigate. Seems simple.

  12. I say the NFL should treat Brown as if he is not part of the league. No team. No pay. No union dues. No random drug tests. No investigation. If he signs with another club then he becomes part of the league again and they can start their investigation again. Until he is on a team, the league should take absolutely no action whatsoever. If Brown is mad about that then maybe he shouldn’t have acted like an out of control moron.

  13. This sounds like the same knee jerk reaction to a rule that we got with pass interference. How can you change the process? Limit the time the nfl can investigate? Then you end up with a rushed and possibly incorrect judgement.

  14. Nobody’s interested in Brown. Especially, after he’s filed grievances to get 30 million from the Raiders. A team he never suited up for, and demanded they release him

  15. @finfan68 that’s a horrible plan. With any investigation every day is crucial so to indefinitely suspend an investigation would likely hurt the nfl case more than suspending it would hurt Brown.

  16. maybe the league is dragging its feet because no entity wants to be associated with the likes of antonio brown. his baggage is too much to bear, his activities havent warranted him the privilege to play in the NFL. It is a privilege, NOT a right

  17. Interesting take. Apparently its OK for AB to jerk around the Raiders but the league can’t jerk him around.
    Reality is that he isn’t in the NFL so there is no need for the NFL to decide on discipline. I wouldnt expect my previous employer to determine discipline for me if I no longer work for them.
    The other teams know what they will be getting if they sign AB so they will have to weigh the cost-benefits of such a decision.

  18. One thing is clear. No one wanted him on the Patriots. As long as that state of affairs persisted, Brown was doubly evil and the Patriots were the kings of sin. Now that the Patriots allowed themselves to be bullied into releasing him, for the greater good of all mankind, it’s OK for other teams to have interest and not OK for the league to be interfering with his search for a new franchise.

  19. It’s AB that is keeping AB from “working”. He who thinks that everyone else is always wrong is usually the one that is wrong.

    By the time anyone would even come close to completing an investigation, there will be many more incidents to investigate. AB is not the victim, and the NFL franchises are not the problem either.

  20. Sunday Swami says:
    October 6, 2019 at 11:43 am
    @finfan68 that’s a horrible plan. With any investigation every day is crucial so to indefinitely suspend an investigation would likely hurt the nfl case more than suspending it would hurt Brown.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Are you saying the NFL can investigate anybody who is NOT part of the league? Why? Because they might be later? By that standard the league can conduct disciplinary investigations on college players. What grounds does the NFL have to conduct an internal disciplinary investigation on someone they currently have no authority to discipline? The reason he is not on the exempt list right now is because the league has no authority to place him on it until he is actually signed by a team. If they have no authority to place him on that list or to currently discipline him then they also have no authority to conduct an investigation on him, compel him to participate or hold him accountable for lying which defeats the purpose of the investigation in the first place, doesn’t it?

  21. kmk1471 says:
    October 6, 2019 at 10:15 am
    You cannot stop a person from working in his chosen profession.
    ———————————-
    No, but at the same time he doesn’t have a right to a job. Professionally speaking, his baggage now far outweighs his value, and that is entirely his own doing.

  22. Gee Mr. Brown, you thought you pulled a fast one on the Raiders and The Steelers who didn’t want to trade you in their division and ol Karma leaped out and popped you in the face.
    Man, straighten up your act. You are far too talented to be acting like a clown. Every day you don’t use it, is a day you’re getting older. It won’t last forever.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!