To the surprise of absolutely no one, Antonio Brown took umbrage with something someone said to him online and, instead of luxuriating in his victory in a power struggle against his erstwhile employer, reminded everyone of how totally not upset he is about the circumstances that precipitated his departure and how totally happy and not at all resentful he is at present. It all started shortly after Brown tweeted the following:
Keep your emotions off the internet— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019
So, you know, that’s already a really stupid thing to say on the internet, especially if you’re a public figure and especially especially if you’ve spent the better part of three months shamelessly leveraging your emotions online specifically in order to achieve a desired end. The natural corollary to posting something like “Keep your emotions off the internet” on the internet is the immediate conferral of dense and voluminous compendium of brutal takedowns, and, in this regard, the internet did not disappoint. Among the most cutting clapbacks came from Pittsburgh’s own Bill Crawford, who responded to Brown’s original tweet with “And your furniture in your apartment,” which is in reference to a pending lawsuit filed against Brown after he allegedly tossed a bunch of furniture from his penthouse in Florida last year. Brown, who just moments before encouraged his followers to refrain from being too emotional online, responded:
Shortly thereafter, another user posted the following graphic:
It is at this point that even a Twitter neophyte (or any rational person) would—correctly!—conclude that the only appropriate recourse is to say nothing. Antonio Brown, as has recently become straightforwardly apparent, is not only not a rational person, but a bitter and contemptible butthole, so he responded:
Emotion: boy fumbled the whole post season in the biggest game of year ! Everyone went blind to busy making guys famous not enough reality these days ! by the way check the list https://t.co/2SWWT8k0jx— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019
Smith-Schuster, who throughout Brown’s fallout with the Steelers abstained from any explicit or implicit public denigration against Brown, caught wind of this slight and did precisely the opposite of what any 22-year-old with a Twitter account would do: he did not cast any aspersions, but instead provided a thoughtful response that aptly conveyed his earnest sadness about Brown’s rancor. Brown, in response to this, posted a screenshot on Instagram of a direct message Smith-Schuster sent him in 2015 to, uhh, [checks notes] own and infantilize Smith-Schuster? I don’t know, you be the judge:
Antonio Brown just put up a 2015 DM from JuJu asking for advice while at USC… pic.twitter.com/fJPDs1XQtq— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 8, 2019
(You’ll notice that I didn’t link the actual Instagram post; this is because Brown, in a bout of cowardice, deleted it.)
Posting this screenshot clearly did not have the desired effect—unless, of course, his goal was to depict Smith-Schuster as a humble and respectful professional, thereby reaffirming everyone’s suspicions that JuJu Smith-Schuster is, in fact, a pleasant and affable young man, in which case, by God, he succeeded mightily.
Buddy. Listen, it’s one thing to take direct shots at Ben Roethlisberger—a figurehead who many Steelers fans only begrudgingly support—and his “ownership mentality,” but it’s quite another to drag a player who is universally adored. (There’s also the fact that, in the aftermath of his game-ending fumble against the Saints, Smith-Schuster exhibited intense and genuine remorse; keep in mind, too, that Smith-Schuster was responsible for a multitude of heroic feats—his performance in the fourth quarter against Jacksonsville comes to mind—during the regular season, all of which should absolutely overshadow that mistake.)
This latest excursion in what has been an exhausting, multi-month bridge-burning tour all came about specifically because Brown, a 31-year-old adult person, used his online platform to post vague (and stolen) nonsense for the express purpose of gaslighting his followers. Of course, this is not the first time Brown has called-out Smith-Schuster—Brown sub-tweeted Smith-Schuster several weeks ago after Smith-Schuster went public in support of Big Ben’s leadership aptitude—but it is the first time he’s directly acknowledged his former contemporary.
This is not a particularly novel bit of intel, but Antonio Brown sucks. He totally rules as a receiver, so it’s kinda lame that his comeuppance for dunking on the Steelers was a trade to his preferred destination and a brand new contract, one that makes him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. I genuinely believed that Brown’s issues with the Steelers were mostly rooted in the organization’s dynamics, particularly the perceived dichotomy between Big Ben and the rest of the roster and that any severed ties caused by his withdrawal could be chalked up as collateral damage, but it’s clear now that Brown also became indignant with Smith-Schuster’s ascension from a promising sidekick to a legitimate superstar and fan-favorite (it probably didn’t help that Roethlisberger, following a loss to Denver, publicly denounced Brown while simultaneously outwardly supporting Smith-Schuster).
It’s evident, too, that, in addition to securing a new contract, Brown wanted to be the foremost commodity in the offense. He debatably was this for the Steelers last season (his 15 touchdowns led the NFL, and he was targeted 168 times—two more than Smith-Schuster—despite playing in only 15 games), but a cursory mental inventory on his part likely revealed that Smith-Schuster’s usage would’ve potentially surpassed his own as early as next season. I don’t know how productive Antonio Brown will be in 2019, but being that the Raiders lack any semblance of a serviceable rushing attack, that their receiving corps features Brown, Tyrell Williams, and tumbleweed, and that Brown’s averaged somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 targets per season over the past six years, Brown should have plenty of chances to eat. Perhaps Brown should keep these details in mind and, in lieu of behaving like a petulant teenager online, take his own advice.