Antonio Brown played his first game in a Patriots uniform on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He did about as well as could be expected in his debut, catching four passes for 56 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown. However, this performance shows less about Brown and more about the Patriots organization.
Just days after signing with the Patriots, Brown became involved in a civil lawsuit with a former trainer, in which she claimed he sexually assaulted her three times in the past two years. Yet he still suited up on Sunday, which shows the “Patriot Way” narrative that you hear so much about is nothing but fabrication.
I’m not saying Brown is guilty or innocent. I’m not a judge or a jury. But I am saying that regardless, you should not let a guy suit up for your team until you can clear his name for certain. The investigation is still ongoing, and more information is likely to come out on the matter this week. If it winds up being a case of extortion and Brown is innocent, then fine. By all means play him. But if there is even an inkling of doubt about his innocence, which there certainly is in this case at this point, he should not be playing football.
There is no gray area in my opinion when it comes to anything having to do with domestic violence or sexual assault. The mere accusation of either of those things is enough to at least warrant a waiting period until more information is found.
The Patriots clearly don’t share my opinion. Since it is a civil and not a criminal matter (at least not yet), Brown is not eligible for the Commissioner Exempt List. Therefore, it is up to the team to decide if there will be any discipline taken. The Patriots decided there wouldn’t be, which leads me to the point of this article.
There is a belief in the football world that the Patriots organization has a way of handling things and dealing with situations the right way. The media refers to it as the “Patriot Way” and I really hate that term. Anybody who thinks the New England Patriots have a secret formula or magic wand that leads to their success is a fool.
The Patriots have been the model of success over the past 20 years, but not because they are perfect or always right. They have problems just like any other franchise has problems. However, they also have the greatest coach and greatest quarterback in the history of the sport with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Because of that, they have consistently put winning teams on the field despite the problems that may occur.
The term “Patriot Way” makes it seem like Foxborough is a utopia and the team can do no wrong. This Antonio Brown situation is just the latest example that shows this is not the case. In the last decade, there have been numerous players with checkered histories that have suited up for the Patriots, including Aquib Talib, Albert Haynesworth, Michael Floyd, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Gordon, and the most infamous case of Aaron Hernandez.
The Patriots took some well-balanced risks on some of these, and just flat out screwed up on others (cough…Hernandez). Even owner Robert Kraft, the creator of the so-called “Patriot Way,” had his own problems this past offseason when he was arrested on prostitution charges.
Belichick was asked last week to define the “Patriot Way” and he said he doesn’t recall ever using that term. That should tell you all you need to know. Every NFL team has issues, and the Patriots are no exception. Yet, because the organization has won so much, people think that everything it touches turns to gold and every decision it makes is the right one.
Given the fact that as I’m writing this, more reports about Brown are surfacing, including a second sexual misconduct accusation, I’m going to guess that the decision to play him will come back to bite the Patriots. They clearly didn’t need him to beat the pathetic Dolphins, but they played him anyway, showing that they value talent over everything.
The “Patriot Way” is nothing but their desire to win, and they do that very well. As a Patriots fan, I am happy about that, but I also acknowledge that the “Patriot Way” narrative is crap. There is no requirement of character to come and play for the Pats, and Antonio Brown is walking proof of that.
The decision to play Brown solidifies that if you help the team win, you have a spot in New England, no matter the circumstances. Because that’s what the “Patriot Way” really is: winning.
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.