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Antonio Brown interrupts NFL’s 100th anniversary PR plan

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently told a reporter from Sports Business Journal that he wants the league’s 100thanniversary to be a celebration. Great public relations plan. I’d loved to have helped outline and showcase the league’s rich history.

Those 100 years have come with missteps, however. It’s understandable.  It’s hard to keep your nose clean for 36,500 days.

As it tries to hang streamers and decorate its markets with colorful balloons, however, the NFL finds itself in a tough spot when sports talk and pregame commentators have to keep talking about off-the-field issues, most recently, about Antonio Brown. During the last year, when you mention the wide receiver, it’s his bad behavior and not scorching play that leads stories. Brown’s latest team, the New England Patriots, was looked to be the one place he might accept rules and simply play after ungraceful exits from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.

Brown’s new team barely had time to program his building key before the next issue emerged. A day after inking a deal with the Patriots, a civil lawsuit was filed in Florida that accuses him of sexual assault.

Add it to a list of his behavioral matters and the NFL has a dent in its celebration plans.

If you’re not familiar with all that came before this suit, I’ll let you Google it. Brown’s childish and unprofessional behavior has been documented far, wide and across news platforms, many that don’t typically cover sports.  

The kicker is that Goodell opted not to place Brown on the Commissioner’s Exempt List ahead of the Patriots’ Week 2 game against the Miami Dolphins. Brown traveled with his new team to Miami that in Pats Speak, means he’ll likely play. 

There has been a lot of wiggle room when Goodell places players on the Exempt List. While Brown has not been accused of a criminal crime and denies the actions outlined in the civil, the suit, which details correspondence between the accuser and Brown, should be enough to hold him out under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. After all, most of the seven-time Pro Bowler’s actions of late have been detrimental to the game and people.

While the NFL didn’t bench him, a helmet manufacturer did. Brown’s latest gaffe gave Xenith buyer’s remorse less than a week after it inked a deal with him, and pulled its endorsement. 

The NFL, which on paper became tougher regarding domestic violence after the 2014 Ray Rice-in-an-elevator case, has decided to wait for more information to come out before taking action against Brown (or not). The Patriots are riding with the NFL. 

So, talk on …

This only leads to more talk about whether Brown should or shouldn’t play until league leaders think it has properly investigated. Again, I don’t think that this topic was among the NFL’s 100thAnniversary PR talking points.

I remember not long after the Rice case when Goodell said that playing in the NFL was a privilege. Brown isn’t the only player to abuse that privilege already this young season. Regarding this issue and similar, we’re reminded that the commissioner’s office is quicker to take action on mismatched socks than domestic issues. The bottom line is that great athletes are more important than doing the right thing.

That isn’t part of a good PR plan.


©Gail Sideman, gpublicity 2019

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