The New England Patriots cut wide receiver Antonio Brown on Friday, but nobody on the team will say why. When Brown signed with the Pats barely a week earlier, it was already known that he was a rebellious guy with a weird thing about helmets. But in the short time he was on New England, he was sued for sexual assault by his former trainer, and a report from Sports Illustrated said that he exposed himself to an artist working at his home. He then sent threatening, intimidating texts to the artist after she spoke to SI. Brown played for the Patriots and scored a touchdown against Miami after the rape accusation became public, but after SI published the text screenshots, he was released ahead of Week 3.
That paragraph right there is basically the extent of confirmed knowledge currently available about Brown’s brief relationship with the Patriots, save a report laundered through Adam Schefter that the text messages “crossed the line,” because “this was real evidence.” That’s two sentences from an anonymous source in the organization, but so far, no one in the Patriots organization has publicly stepped up to take responsibility for the handling of Brown’s situation.
Bill Belichick, the head coach, seemed almost personally offended to be asked that question by CBS’ Dana Jacobson on Sunday. Jacobson, wondering pregame what the final straw was with Brown, got a no comment in reply and then a rude, wordless stare down as she thanked Belichick for his time.
After the game, Belichick was just as evasive:
Question 4: Why did you decide to cut Antonio Brown on Friday?
Belichick: “Yeah, we’ll just focus on today’s game.”
That kind of stonewalling trickled down to the players, too. It’s hard for me to feel any sympathy for Tom Brady—as the 42-year-old leader of this team, he can absolutely talk in specifics about Brown if he’d like. But without any sort of coordinated message coming from the Pats, he was left absolutely flailing in a radio interview this morning, which you can listen to in full here. On his regularly scheduled appearance, when asked “where you stand on this whole thing,” Brady said that he had “a lot of personal feelings, none of which I really care to share.”
“It’s a difficult situation, and, um, you know, that’s kind of how I feel,” he said.
In the followup to that question, about whether or not the team was able to simply deal with the issue by moving on to the next game, Brady was stuck rambling in generalities about his relationships with his teammates, and then the power of love and optimism, until it was nearly impossible to draw any coherent conclusions about the Patriots’ handling of Antonio Brown.
“We’re in a culture where we want to cast judgement on people, we want to disparage people so quickly, and it just speaks to me that a lot of people are probably hurting,” he did say at one point.
As he continued, egged on by a host who said he was “getting emotional,” Brady vomited out this alphabet soup about today’s “negative culture,” transcribed helpfully by ESPN:
“It’s so easy for us to blame and shame because everyone has a voice now,” he said. “A lot of them can just be nameless, faceless comments that are very difficult for people. You love too much, that’s a problem. You hate too much, that’s a problem. You win too much, that’s a problem. You lose too much, that’s a problem. Everything ends up being a problem.
“So you just have to focus on, look at yourself, and ‘What do I believe in? What are my beliefs?’ I’m responsible for my own beliefs. I’m responsible for my own actions. And I’m going to do the best I can do to contribute in the best way possible. I’m not going to add on. I’m not going to be a part of this culture that can become very negative, can become very blaming, very much point fingers. I think as a parent, what responsibility do we have to teach our children? What society do we want this to become? How do we choose in the role we have to make a difference, to contribute in a positive way? And if we don’t, that’s our choice. For me, based on my upbringing, my choice is something that’s different than that.”
Brady wouldn’t have had to spend so much effort nonsensically talking around the Brown problem if his coach could have just given a straightforward answer when asked. Questions about why the Patriots cut Antonio Brown aren’t the sort of query that anyone could reasonably consider to be off-limits—it’s not about politics or family or anything outside of Bill Belichick’s area of expertise. It’s asking the leader of a football team about a decision related to the football team’s roster, particularly because there’s a glaring inconsistency in how the Patriots handled a rape accusation against one of their players and how they handled a report that he sent threatening texts to a person he sexually harassed. The Patriots took responsibility for Antonio Brown when they signed him, and when they played him in Week 2. They probably didn’t think it would be this big of a deal when they picked him up, but tough shit. The absolute least they could do is answer a question honestly.