I’ve never been the sort to require that athletes be role models. They don’t have to be bastions of good behavior in order for me to acknowledge the skill of their craft or their right to make the living that they have for themselves. The Pittsburgh Steelers take character into account more than most organizations, but even they still find room for exceptions.
Antonio Brown is one of the most well-known, most popular, and most well-liked athletes in all of American sports, it’s safe to say. The ninth-year wide receiver continues to put up historic numbers, and just Sunday became the second-fastest player ever to hit 10,000 receiving yards.
He showed it up on his social media pages, and looked forward to the next 10,000. But one reporter recently went to find the stories that you’re not going to find on Brown’s social media accounts, and the wide receiver did not take kindly to it.
Jesse Washington, writing for ESPN’s The Undefeated, published an article shortly before the season opener that looked into some of the stories of Brown’s life that he keeps away from his Instagram account. Questionable behavior toward women he has been involved with, former trainers and business associates who have chosen not to work with him anymore, most notably Bo Smith.
Brown did not take kindly to Washington’s article, which he had known at least might be in the works. He interfered months ago with the reporter as he attempted to obtain an interview with one of his former girlfriends, sending him a warning message to “stop hitting my people up” before blocking him.
After the story came out, Brown responded directly to the reporter on Twitter in a since-deleted message in which he said, “wait [until] I see you bro we gone see what your jaw like”. I don’t think I have to be a language expert to infer that this was a threat of violence.
sheesh 😶😶😶 pic.twitter.com/n3SSuoiQyl
— Jesse Washington (@jessewashington) September 7, 2018
That didn’t phase Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who was asked about the incident during his press conference yesterday. He was, in fact, quite dismissive of it, as though he wasn’t even aware exactly of what had been said.
“Guys, don’t ask me about social media things”, he told the reporter. “We could talk all day about things that are online or on the internet or on social media. I just choose to stay away from it because it’s a waste of my time”.
I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder as to whether or not it’s a “waste of time” for a head coach to handle matters on social media. It didn’t seem to be last season when he benched Martavis Bryant for making comments about a teammate.
“There’s very little accountability. There’s very little journalistic integrity, etc”, Tomlin went on, throwing out red herrings. “Guys say things they don’t mean. I talk to my teenagers about it all the time. Let’s keep it professional and in the real. I think that’s appropriate in this setting”.
I think it’s appropriate to be something beyond dismissive when one of your star players makes a threat of violence toward a reporter, no matter how facetious it might be. It certainly deserved a response that went beyond insinuating that the article Brown was angry about lacked “journalistic integrity”.