Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is back in football, reports indicate, though not in the NFL—nor on the field. It appears he is set to be announced as a new owner of the Albany Empire, a franchise in the National Arena League, via Rodger Wyland. And his father, “Touchdown” Eddie Brown, is said to be involved as well.
The senior Brown was a star Arena Football League wide receiver, as you might imagine, spending his entire career there playing for the Albany Firebirds from 1994 through 2003, though in 2001 they moved to Indiana. But Antonio spent much of his adolescence in Albany as a result, watching him play.
While he and his father haven’t formally stated anything, it’s clear that they’re preparing for the announcement. The Empire’s Twitter page announced last night that there will be a press conference at 10 AM this morning. Eddie Brown shared the Tweet. Antonio himself posted a short video with the city in the background.
“Albany, NY. I’m here”, he said. “It’s a big announcement loading in the morning. Stay tuned”. He also posted a photograph of himself at a Firebirds game as a child posing with the team’s mascot.
The AFL does not currently exist, but like the XFL, is due for a second relaunch under new ownership in 2024 after shutting its doors in 2018. That is where the Albany Empire was born, that season, but with the folding of the AFL, the NAL was founded, and the Empire was named after the same franchise.
The Empire of the NAL is currently the best team in the league, claiming the last two championships, defeating the Columbus Lions in 2021 and the Carolina Cobras in 2022 to earn the titles. They now own the most titles in the league’s brief history along with the Jacksonville Sharks.
While the franchise is not technically the same as the original Empire of the AFL, the ownership group had been, and it will now include Brown and his father, the latter a legend of the Albany area for his time on the indoor gridiron.
The Empire signed quarterback Vinny Testaverde Jr. to a contract in December. That is probably the most notable name on their roster in terms of recognition, and that is due to who his father is. Testaverde attended the University of Albany.
The city has a long history of football in the arena leagues, and the Empire appears to have a solid following—helped by the fact that the brand already established some recognition in the last gasps of the AFL before it folded for the second time.
But isn’t nice to be able to write about Antonio Brown and have it just be about football and nothing crazy? This feels like the most reasonable thing he’s done in half a decade. There have been unverified reports that he is retiring and that his focus is now on establishing his legacy, but perhaps we’ll see what gets announced today.