The Antonio Brown saga that is playing itself out down in Foxborough has many tentacles. But the one I want to address today is the media’s role as, for all intents and purposes, the only group with the means to hold people accountable for things they do that might reasonably be considered questionable.
And I consider the entire Brown situation questionable, and that includes allegations in a civil suit that he raped his trainer.
The objective here is not to judge — or even presume — innocence or guilt. That will all be settled in court. And it doesn’t matter to me whether or why this is a civil, and not criminal, complaint; why the woman “waited so long” to report it; or whether this is, as Brown’s agent claims, a “money grab.” Again, that’ll be settled without any input from me.
What does matter is that the Patriots’ media contingent made a valiant attempt to hold Bill Belichick’s feet to the fire in Wednesday’s news conference, and that Belichick stonewalled the reporters and broadcasters, then turned around and walked off. This is totally consistent with his personality, but it doesn’t mean he’s justified to do it.
Let’s face some facts. This region is full of fanboys and fangirls who love their six-time Super Bowl champions, and who have fallen in line with “In Bill We Trust.” To quote the esteemed Bruce Springsteen, they’ve been blinded by the light.
Because of this devotion, their reaction to Belichick’s boorishness and rudeness is to cheer and berate the poor reporters (the irony here is that they are “doing their jobs,” and isn’t that Belichick’s mantra?).
It’s easy to do that today, of course, with the general hostility the country feels for the news media. And maybe sometimes the media deserve that hostility.
Not this time.
Sometimes, regardless of where it leads you, it’s necessary to pick the hill you want to die on, and then stand your ground. Wednesday was one of those times.
Had the news media allowed Belichick and the Patriots to hide behind official statements, they would have been guilty of gross malfeasance. We, the readers, would have had every right to conclude that the Patriots’ media were 100 percent in the team’s pocket.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was part of that contingent for almost 14 years, and sat through many an uncomfortable Belichick briefing where he was unwilling to admit even what color socks he’d put on that morning. I recall when the Baltimore Ravens skunked the Patriots in a playoff game, and Belichick’s answer to every question was a grunt and a snort and a word or two. It was insulting, not just to reporters but to fans who actually care about these things.
People tend to forget that on a daily basis, the team’s only consistent means to communicate is through some kind of media, whether it’s news or social. The difference, of course, is that the news media acts as a filter. You may not always like the way the information is filtered, but I say the lack of one is an even bigger problem.
The Patriots may have one of sport’s all-time dynasties, and are unquestionably the most dominant professional team of the 21st century. Much of that has to do with Belichick, of course. He is very good at what he does. Maybe among the best ever.
But that doesn’t absolve him, or the franchise, from being accountable when it comes to other areas in which they fall short. Of course, the Patriots may feel as if they have a license to skate when issues such as owner Robert Kraft’s escapades at the Orchids of Asia systematically go away, or when Patrick Chung’s cocaine indictment is barely a blip on the radar screen (Belichick wouldn’t discuss that with the media, either, but his refusal to do so wasn’t contentious and almost understandable, since it is a matter for criminal adjudication).
But there are legitimate questions with the Brown situation, the first being how his signing really came about. He practically orchestrated his release out of Oakland, and for all the pablum about the “Patriot Way,” it seems counterintuitive to bring someone like that into your fold without going through the guy’s trash to make sure there isn’t anything there that bites.
And the second is did the Patriots know, when they signed him, that there were rumblings about rape complaints? Fair question — and one the Patriots still haven’t answered.
Here’s what the Patriots don’t seem to understand. Because they were caught cheating back in 2007, and sanctioned, the scrutiny involving “Deflategate” was much more intense than it would have been otherwise. That ought to be easy to figure out.
Well this is the same. Memories of Aaron Hernandez are fresh. He’s the guy whose contract the Patriots extended while he was out murdering people. So now, when a highly toxic player the Patriots have just signed is involved in something involving the word “rape,” regardless of his ultimate guilt or innocence, we’re supposed to shut up and nod in agreement “onto Miami?”
You people are dreaming.