How very NFL to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month by welcoming Antonio Brown back to the league.
While Tom Brady is counting future touchdowns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is salivating at the yardage his offense will pile up, I’m thinking of a few other stats. Like the two women who’ve accused Brown of sexual misconduct, one of whom alleges he raped her. The one woman who said he pushed her, causing her to fall and get scraped up.
And don’t forget the eight-game suspension Brown is currently serving, based in part on intimidating texts he sent to one of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Think of those numbers the next time the NFL plasters pink ribbons all over its website and floods its online stores with pink merchandise. As if that’s supposed to give the NFL a pass on its continuing abysmal treatment of what is now almost half of its fan base.
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Time and again, the NFL has made it very clear that so long as a player can produce on the field, it doesn’t matter if he beats women or degrades them when he’s off it. The NFL is purely transactional, and the health, safety and well-being of women don’t figure anywhere into those equations.
What makes Brown’s signing Friday all the more galling is the team that did it.
Arians is, by far, the league’s most progressive coach when it comes to inclusion. All three of his coordinators are Black men. He hired the NFL’s first female assistant coach, Jen Welter, back in 2015, and has two women on his staff this year.
The Bucs also happen to have a pink banner splashed across the top of their website, touting a 5K run that benefits breast cancer research.
Brady regularly posts gushing tributes to his wife, mother and sister. He posted a photo of his wife and daughter in honor of International Women’s Day last spring and one of his daughter on National Daughters Day last month.
And yet, Brady is so desperate to prove he can win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick that he had no qualms vouching for a man with a documented history of demeaning women and multiple allegations of abuse. Lobbied for a former “teammate” he barely knows and played with even less.
Never mind that Arians, who worked with Brown in Pittsburgh, insisted in March that the receiver wouldn’t end up in Tampa Bay.
“It’s not a fit in our locker room,” Arians said then.
Funny how things change when you’re 4-2 and the New Orleans Saints are breathing down your neck. Horrible messages be damned. We’ve got a division to win!
The only saving grace in this deal is that it’s probably only a matter of time before it blows up in the Bucs’ faces.
Brown misbehaved his way out of Pittsburgh. He was insubordinate, childish and verbally abusive in his short stint in Oakland. He didn’t even last two weeks in New England, Belichick deciding he wasn’t worth the considerable trouble he brings.
If you honestly think Brown has learned his lessons and will be a model citizen in Tampa Bay, I’ve got some pink merchandise to sell you.
There also is potential additional discipline looming. The suspension that ends after Week 8 is not related to the rape accusations by his former trainer, allegations the NFL is still investigating. So there is a chance Tampa Bay could get him back, only to lose him right away.
Frankly, it would serve Brady and the Buccaneers right.
Every chance the league gets, it lets women know in no uncertain terms how little it thinks of us. How expendable we are. Brady, Arians, the Buccaneers – they all gladly sold their souls for the chance to sign Brown.
But as it always is with the NFL, it’s women who pay the price.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.