As if the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have enough turmoil with Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, Ben Roethlisberger’s bruised elbow and a season-opening tie with the Cleveland Browns, Antonio Brown apologized for adding to the mix by threatening an ESPN reporter on social media.
Brown had responded after Jesse Washington, a senior writer for The Undefeated, wrote a story with the headline, “Antonio Brown is an Instagram All-Pro. But is that the full picture?” In a since-deleted tweet, Brown wrote to Washington (via the Post-Gazette): “wait to I see you bro we gone see what your jaw look like.” He also has blocked Washington on Instagram, writing, “stay in your lane” in a direct message.
In separate statements Wednesday, he apologized and Steelers president Art Rooney II called him out.
“I made a mistake in judgment with my tweet last week, and I apologize for that,” Brown said in a statement to the Post-Gazette. “It is not okay to threaten anyone and I need to be better spiritually and professionally. Though I do not agree with the negative parts of the story about my personal life, I need to have better control over my actions to use social media as a way to engage with my fans, rather than use it improperly.”
Rooney said, “It is never okay for any employee of the Steelers organization — player, coach or front office staff — to threaten a member of the media or anyone else for that matter. I appreciate that Antonio is apologizing for his inappropriate comments.”
Coach Mike Tomlin chose Tuesday to skirt the issue. “You know, we could talk all day about things that are online or on the Internet or on social media,” Tomlin told reporters. “I just choose to stay away from it because it’s a waste of my time. There’s very little accountability, there’s very little journalistic integrity, etc. Guys say things they don’t mean. I talk to my teenagers about it all the time. Let’s keep it professional and in the real. I think that’s appropriate in this setting.”
According to the Post-Gazette, Washington said that a Steelers spokesman had “relayed Antonio’s apology to me, and I accept it. I understand that things happen in emotional moments. I don’t hold it against him at all. I absolutely did not set out to do a negative story. I just wanted to write about who he was off the field, like I’ve done dozens of times in my career. Over the course of the reporting, all of this stuff about his personal life emerged, and it was the first time I had heard about any of it.”
Washington’s story details Brown’s offseason work and dedication heading into a must-win season for the Steelers. In it, Brown notes his fondness for social media. “I can’t really express myself in this game,” Brown said. “I can’t really tell you how I feel.” The story goes on to detail Instagram spats with, among others, Chelsie Kyriss, the mother of three of his kids, over his relationship with an Instagram model. He and the mother of his 11-year-old son battled over child support, with their fight playing out on Instagram.
Washington wrote that he sought to clear up the turmoil, but Brown refused an interview.
Last winter, Brown apologized for making headlines for a live Facebook video that showed the team’s locker room after a playoff win over Miami. Tomlin had called Brown “foolish,” “selfish” and “inconsiderate” for posting the video, which was seen by hundreds of thousands of Facebook users before the wide receiver took it down.
Brown needs “to grow from this,” Tomlin said at the time. “He works extremely hard, he’s extremely talented, and those things get minimized with incidents such as this. He’s a great player, respected largely in the locker room. But incidents such as this don’t help him in that regard.”
Meanwhile, Bell shows no signs of ending his holdout, Roethlisberger missed practice with what he said is an elbow bruise he suffered in the opener and the Chiefs are coming to town Sunday.
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