The Raiders star wide receiver has been big on Twitter and Instagram for years, using those mediums rather than mainstream media to shape his message and push his brand. Brown launched his own Youtube page Wednesday with the promise that “fans and subscribers will get insight into the day to day life of the NFL’s fiercest receiver as he prepares for his 10th season with his new team.”
So it wasn’t surprising that after a Twitter promise “not to give you media fakes more ammo” Brown was back on Twitter quoting the Bible with the message “Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those that curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28) Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31) #CallGOD
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 10, 2019
Brown became a national story this week for perceived social media attacks against former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster. He was overwhelmingly cast as the villain for criticizing Smith-Schuster for a late-season fumble that helped keep the Steelers out of the playoffs.
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
It was a curious shot across the bow, given that the day the fumble occurred against the New Orleans Saints, Brown stood at his locker and defended Smith-Schuster.
“He’s been great all year. He’s the reason we’re here,” Brown said.
Pittsburgh fans immediately responded to the “media fakes” tweet with photos of Smith-Schuster being named the Steelers MVP, an award Brown has won four times.
Nate Burleson said on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” that Brown was “starting to poison and taint” his legacy. Former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio told NFL.com, “I love the talent but (Antonio Brown) has clearly shown he’s going to be a pain in the (expletive.)”
Brown’s behavior and relationship with coach Jon Gruden is a drama to be played out this season in Oakland and starting in 2020 in Las Vegas. But where social media is concerned, Brown’s success is virtually ensured. He has 1.4 million Twitter followers and 3.3 million on Instagram.
Ishveen Anand is the CEO of OpenSponsorship, a platform that connects brands to athlete endorsers. The company claims to have brokered over 4,000 deals that include half of the NFL’s active players. Contacted before Brown’s Wednesday tweet, she correctly forecast Brown’s strategy going forward after the negative wave of publicity following the Smith-Schuster post.
“I think he’ll tone it down,” Anand said in a phone interview. “I think what it comes down to is you’re getting close to losing your sponsorship dollars and it’s not worth it.”
“What he was doing wasn’t punishable, and yeah, it’s not cool, but look at the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green spat awhile back,” Anand said. “Everyone forgets about it, so I don’t see this truly affecting (Brown) in the long term.”
Expect Brown to return to self-promotion, as evidenced by the Youtube channel. The vast majority of Brown’s social media is essentially harmless, with lots of Instagram photos and videos of his children, as well as a number which stress a legendary work ethic that Gruden has likened to that of Jerry Rice.
Photos show off his wardrobe as well as flashy training camp entrances that include arriving in a helicopter or a Rolls Royce.
Brown already backed down in a sense on the Smith-Schuster issue when he posted a direct message from the receiver, then a receiver looking for tips while in college at USC, and then later took it down.
Yet as poorly as Brown came off, there’s still an element of the old P.T. Barnum adage “all publicity is good publicity” when it comes to social media. He has in the past been associated with advertising giants such as Pepsi and Visa, opportunities which are enhanced with the reaction he gets on the Internet.
“On Twitter, his average likes for his comments and reactions is like 538 percent above average,” Anand said. “That’s 538 percent more engagement on his feed, and if he puts out something for Visa or Pepsi he’s 538 percent above average.”
While Brown’s post about not giving “media fakes” more ammo had a seemingly endless string of negative comments and more than 4,000 replies, the amount of “likes” more than doubled that number.
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 9, 2019
Juxtaposed with a touching Budweiser ad featuring NBA star Dwayne Wade and how he reached out and touched the lives of four different people through acts of kindness, Brown’s Smith-Schuster blast looked even smaller.
“It’d be nice if he was Dwayne Wade and had his personality, but he’s not, so let him be who he’s going to be,” Anand said. “He’s got a brand, you’ve got to stay true to your brand.”