ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Raiders released All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown on Saturday morning after he asked for it in an early morning Instagram post.
Five hours later, multiple reports surfaced that Brown had signed with the New England Patriots.
Brown’s release ended a tumultuous six-month tenure with the club before he even played a snap in the 2019 season. Now, the drama will unfold in New England, where he reportedly signed a one-year, $15 million contract with a $9 million signing bonus.
After coming over from the Pittsburgh Steelers for third- and fifth-round draft picks in March, Brown was embroiled in controversy from frostbitten feet to an issue with his helmet. But everything came to a head this week, ending with Brown’s release.
The Raiders announced the transaction with a one-sentence news release, reading simply, “The Raiders have released WR Antonio Brown from the team today.”
“We just have exhausted everything. We tried every way possible to make it work,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after Saturday’s practice. “I will tell you that I’m very proud of what we did as an organization to try. And I wish Antonio nothing but the best. And I’m sorry we never got a chance to see him in Silver and Black.”
According to a report from ESPN, Brown was fined more than $215,000 for conduct detrimental to the team for his outburst directed at general manager Mike Mayock during Wednesday’s practice. By fining Brown, the team voided the guarantees in his contract.
ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington said he received an email from Brown on Saturday morning that said, “No way I play after they took that and made my contract week to week.”
Those feelings led Brown to post an image on Instagram reading, “You are gonna piss a lot of people off when you start doing what’s best for you,” with the caption, “And that’s fine! I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mines. Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years. ‘I’m not mad at anyone I’m just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong.’ Release me @raiders.”
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And that’s fine ! I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mines.Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years. “I’m not mad at anyone. I’m just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong.” Release me @raiders #NOMore #theyputblindersonahorseforareason #NoMoreFake
Brown also used hashtags that read, “NO More,” “they put blinders on a horse for a reason” and “No More Fake.”
The four days of controversy began on Wednesday morning, when Brown posted a letter from Mayock that said he had been fined nearly $54,000 for missing a training camp practice Aug. 18 and a walk-through in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Aug. 22. Then at Wednesday’s practice, Brown reportedly “got into it” with Mayock, confronting the GM over the fines.
Thursday, reports surfaced the Raiders were planning on suspending Brown for the outburst, though neither Mayock nor coach Jon Gruden confirmed those plans. Brown was not at Thursday’s practice.
But on Friday, Brown was back, issuing an apology in a team meeting with the Raiders’ captains beside him. Gruden issued an impromptu statement at the beginning of practice, saying the plan was to have Brown play in Week 1 on Monday night.
The Raiders have released WR Antonio Brown from the team today.
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) September 7, 2019
The situation became more bizarre when Brown posted a two-minute video to YouTube on Friday night featuring an apparent conversation between him and Gruden, during which the voice of Gruden called Brown “the most misunderstood (expletive) human being in my entire life that I’ve ever met.”
According to a report from ESPN, Gruden was amused by the video and thought it was “awesome.”
But the team’s attitude toward Brown clearly changed on Saturday morning, once Brown asked for his release through social media.
“It was a series of things. I just don’t think it worked. It didn’t fit here,” Gruden said.
Asked if he felt a sense of relief with Brown officially off the team, Gruden said he didn’t want to get into the emotions.
“Was very hopeful about what he could bring here. Unfortunately, it’s not gonna happen,” Gruden said. “And I’ll tell you, he’s a good guy. He’s misunderstood by a lot of people, but he’s a good guy. He’s a great player, and I hope he gets what he’s looking for.”