Antonio Brown Has Brought Immediate Chaos to the Albany Empire, His New Arena Football Team
Antonio Brown bought a National Arena League football team recently and everything surrounding the team has been a complete mess. It's been a sports soap opera featuring increasingly erratic storylines, with Brown always at the center. Basically, it's been exactly what you would expect from Antonio Brown in an ownership capacity.
First, a little background. Brown's father, Eddie Brown, is an Arena Football legend. "Touchdown" Eddie Brown won AFL MVP playing for the Albany Firebirds in 1994 and was voted the best player in league history in 2006. The original Firebirds franchise moved and then folded and there have been multiple iterations of Albany arena football teams since, with the latest being the Albany Empire, which Brown purchased a stake in back in March.
The first weird thing to happen after Brown bought the team was that there was a public disagreement over whether or not Brown owned the entire team. He claimed he did and the former majority owner, Mike Kwarta, said he did not. Brown would take over 95% of the ownership three days later. His father was installed as general manager.
On April 6, 10 days before the season started, head coach Tom Menas left the team. Menas had guided the franchise to league championships in 2021 and 2022. Menas was replaced by Damon Ware, who guided the team to a 1-2 start and was fired over the weekend. There were rumors that Eddie Brown would become coach, but instead Brown apparently reached out to... Tom Menas.
In addition to Ware leaving the team, championship-winning quarterback Sam Castronova and reigning league MVP Darius Prince both reportedly left on Monday. Then it came out that seven players in total were out. And on top of that, they returned from their road trip to find that Brown had told the hotel to lock them out of their hotel rooms. Police had to get involved to make sure they could get their belongings out of the rooms.
So was Ware fired because of the poor start to the season? Or because he was one of the people who complained that he wasn't paid last Friday? Brown's team said the delayed pay was because of issues switching the banks from the previous owner.
Whatever the problem was, kicker Michael Hall says he was punched in the face on the bus ride back to Albany after the team's latest loss. This resulted in a surreal interview with the local news where teammates interrupted him in the middle of the interview.
It feels like every day someone new - anyone from the starting quarterback to someone in payroll - leaves the team. Oh, and Brown got into a heated exchange with a security guard at the season opening game in Albany when he refused to leave the field during halftime.
Who knows what will happen next, but there are still 11 games left on their schedule. They have a home game on Saturday and it's unclear if they have a quarterback. Maybe he could call an old friend.