Antonio Brown and his attorney, Sean Burstyn, revealed on Tuesday night’s episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that they are considering filing a defamation lawsuit against the Buccaneers after the franchise alleged he had a “spontaneous mental health episode.”
“Tony [Brown] was defamed by this spin that he had a mental health episode that makes him someone who’s not reliable to do a good job on the field,” Burstyn said on the episode, per ESPN. “So we’re pursuing internally all of our rights under the CBA and considering them and maybe stepping outside of the CBA.
“All of our options are on the table. We’re going to hold to account the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians, the general manager—to the extent anyone who’s responsible for this spin that Antonio isn’t reliable to do a good job playing football because he doesn’t have the mental fortitude to do it. They’ll be held to account.”
The former Bucs wide receiver pulled off his helmet, pads and shirt before jogging off the field during Week 17. Tampa Bay released him shortly after, but not without fans wondering why the franchise waited given that coach Bruce Arians said in his postgame press conference, “He is no longer a Buc, all right? That’s the end of the story.”
NFL Network previously reported that the franchise wanted Brown to get mental health treatment and therapy. Brown went on to target Tom Brady, Arians and Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, in a number of social media posts, and he was subsequently released.
Brown said to Gumbel in the episode, “These guys at Tampa Bay Bucs tried to make an agreement with me to give me $200,000 to go to the crazy house so these guys could look like they know what they’re talking about.”
Gumbel: “They offered you $200,000 for what?
Burstyn said, “The offer was Antonio would basically sit on the sidelines, go on some list and commit himself to some form of intensive mental health treatment. And we were specifically told, in writing by the general manager twice, ‘Don’t spin this any other way.‘”
When asked about a figure they would be seeking, Brown said it would be “a whole lot of money,” and added, “mental health is an important key in the world, so to drag people along and play on people’s mental health, you know, it’s unfair and unfortunate.”
Two different stories came from the respective camps about what exactly led to Brown’s outburst on the field.
Arians claimed during a later press conference that Brown was upset he wasn’t being targeted enough during the game. Brown disputed the claim on the episode, saying, “I’m not worried about the ball. Tom Brady is my guy. He’s the reason I’m on Tampa Bay, so I know I'm gonna get the ball.”
Meanwhile, Brown, via Burstyn, accused the team earlier this month of executing an “ongoing cover-up” of the fact that he was effectively cut during the game. Brown said that he relented when pressured by a coach to play with an ankle injury, and was injected with what he describes as a “powerful and sometimes dangerous painkiller.”
During the episode, Brown and Burstyn claimed that the franchise gave the wide receiver Toradol shots on more than one occasion “so he couldn't feel the damage that he was doing to his ankle until he got to that threshold point where he told his coach, 'Coach, I can't play because of my ankle.'” The pair said it was before the Panthers and Jets games (Week 16 and 17, respectively).
Brown was reportedly slated to undergo ankle surgery on Jan. 18.
Gumbel asked the wide receiver if he thought he needed mental help of any kind, and he responded, “I have mental wealth, man. I know a lot of people may not understand me, know how I look at things or don't know how I react [to] emotional things, but it's not for them to understand me. I've got a beautiful family, kids and people all across the world that look up to me, and it's no reason I'm in this position at this point.”
More NFL Coverage: