NFL’s Antonio Brown crisis has a familiar ugly theme

When word spread this week about the latest development involving Antonio Brown, a man who has seemingly commandeered more headlines this month than the last year of Watergate, the explosiveness of the news caused jaws to drop league-wide.

That sentiment applied to those working at 850 Park Ave. in New York. For those in the league office, the news of Brown being accused of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court must have felt familiar as commissioner Roger Goodell and his lieutenants again found themselves figuring out what to do with a star player stuck in a legal situation that stands to bring only negative attention to their cherished shield.

Nothing bothers the NFL more than situations like this. That became clear in 2017, when the league unnecessarily treated the small number of players who kneeled during the anthem as an existential crisis. To the league, it mattered little that the players, most of whom were African Americans, were doing it as a means of protesting police brutality and racial injustice. No. The main reason the NFL didn’t like it was because the gestures were unpopular with a segment of the sport’s fans, something that could hurt the league’s money. So the league viewed the kneeling as something that needed to be curbed, and the NFL pulled out all the stops to do so, including committing $100 million to the Players Coalition causes.

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