The Oakland Raiders abruptly released wide receiver Antonio Brown on Saturday, just two days before the team’s season opener against the Denver Broncos.
The move caps a tumultuous week in Oakland and comes just hours after the wide receiver posted a message to Instagram on Saturday morning that ended with “Release me @raiders”.
“You are gonna piss a lot of people off when you start doing what’s best for you,” the message begins. “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 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.”
He becomes a free agent as of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden had said Friday he expected Brown to play in Monday’s season opener.
Brown was fined $215K on Friday for a confrontation with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock on Wednesday. The conduct fine voided the guarantees in his contract, while the Raiders also reportedly would not be obligated to pay him any termination pay.
According to multiple reports, the Raiders have yet to pay Brown any money. Spotrac, which tracks players’ salaries and bonuses, points out that Brown already missed out on a $500,000 bonus for not attending at least 85 percent of the offseason program and would be due no money or have any salary cap impact if he were cut before the Week 1 game.
“No way I play after they took [his guaranteed money] and made my contract week to week,” Brown wrote to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington in an email Saturday.
There has been plenty of drama around Brown since he was acquired from the Steelers in March and signed to a contract extension.
In the most recent episode, Brown and Mayock had to be physically separated during a testy exchange on Wednesday, ESPN and NFL Network reported, leading to Brown opening a team meeting on Friday morning with what was dubbed an “emotional apology.”
Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Brown confronted Mayock over being fined almost $54,000 and called Mayock a “cracker” and addressed him with a number of “cuss words” during the altercation. Anderson reported Mayock began to walk away because he felt the situation would escalate.
Brown told ESPN’s Dianna Russini that he did not call Mayock a “cracker” during their Wednesday altercation. Brown told Russini he would “never use that word.”
Brown, 31, initially had been expected to be suspended by the Raiders for conduct detrimental to the team and miss at least the Week 1 game.
Later Friday, Brown posted a video to his YouTube channel that appears to contain the audio of a phone call he had with Gruden, reportedly earlier this week while Brown’s status with the team was in flux. The video lasts nearly two minutes and in it, Gruden asks Brown, “What the hell is going on, man?”
“Just a villain all over the news, man,” Brown replies.
“You’re not a villain,” Gruden then says back. “You’re just, you’re the most misunderstood (expletive) human being in my entire life that I’ve ever met.”
“Do you want to be a Raider or not,” Gruden later asks, to which Brown replies, “Man I’ve been trying to be a Raider since Day 1.”
Brown also missed time due to a frostbite-like condition on his feet, an incident Gruden said wasn’t Brown’s fault but stemmed from improper protection on his feet during cryotherapy.
Then he sat out during a dispute with the NFL over his helmet, returning only after losing two grievances.
—Field Level Media