Embattled NFL receiver Antonio Brown said he plans to sue his former team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, for releasing him earlier this month. Speaking through his attorney, Brown said that he told team officials he was too injured to play.
On January 2 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Brown got into an argument on the sideline with head coach Bruce Arians. After the spat, Brown removed his jersey and pads; then proceeded to make a scene in the end zone on his way to the locker room. The team released him from his contract shortly afterwards.
Now, Brown says he was battling an ankle injury, but that the Bucs wanted him to play anyways. Arians and his staff contend that Brown never voiced any concern about the ankle. Although, the receiver did appear on the pregame injury report.
During an interview with Bryant Gumbel, Brown’s attorney Sean Burstyn said his client is seeking money for both Brown’s ankle surgery and defamation damages. Multiple players and coaches around the organization suggested that Brown need or should seek mental health care after the incident.
Brown’s case relies heavily on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
Burstyn essentially said that because of the Bucs public response to the outburst, his client now faces a stigma. That stigma could affect his future employment.
“Antonio was defamed by this spin that he had a mental health episode. That [allegation] makes him someone who’s not reliable to do a good job on the field,” Burstyn told Gumbel. “So we’re pursuing internally all of our rights under the CBA and considering them. And maybe stepping outside of the CBA.
“All of our options are on the table,” he continued. “We’re going to hold to account the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians, the general manager to the extent anyone who’s responsible for this spin that Antonio isn’t reliable to do a good job playing football because he doesn’t have the mental fortitude to do it. They’ll be held to account.”
Brown then added that he thinks it’s “unfair and unfortunate” to “drag people along and play on people’s mental health.”
The Bucs may have offered money to go to a mental health clinic
Brown also claimed the team tried to bribe him to seek treatment. “Yeah, these guys at Tampa Bay Bucs tried to make an agreement with me to give me $200,000 to go to the crazy house so these guys could look like they know what they’re talking about.”
Burstyn went into further detail about the allegation. Brown and his attorney correlate with the refusal to acknowledge the ankle injury.
“The offer was Antonio would basically sit on the sidelines, go on some list — and commit himself to some form of intensive mental health treatment,” Burstyn said. “And we were specifically told, in writing, by the general manager [Jason Licht], twice, ‘Don’t spin this any other way.'”
The Bucs have yet to respond to specific allegations. But rumors around the league suggest that Brown may have actually been upset for a different reason, too. The season was nearly over the time of his outburst, and it appeared he was going to fall short of an incentive bonus for catches.