Can the Self-Destructing Antonio Brown Be Saved?

When you think life revolves around you then destruction is waiting at your doorstep.

In a recent YouTube video, NFL star Antonio Brown, known as “AB,” passionately reached out to share his self-absorbed life. The video captured how he views himself. “I get mad at it, but I love it—the game of football,” said Brown. “I want to play, play on the field. That the only excitement I can bring to my [expletive] household is going to the field. That the only thing that makes my mom and dad happy is going to the field—and only thing that makes people love me. … You still have a mission. … This is your testimony 84.” (The number 84 was Brown’s jersey number with the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

This is his testimony? Pause for a moment and think about Brown’s words. His whole life, purpose, and existence is defined by playing football. Did you catch it? The totality of his identity and worth is found in the game of football. This is incredibly sad. Antonio Brown is crying out for help, and he doesn’t even realize it. He is hopelessly lost.

But he has everything the world would ever want, right? Yet, he is searching for true meaning, satisfaction, and purpose in life. He emphatically states that without football there is no excitement, happiness, or love. This is Google’s “Most Searched Athlete of 2019,” whom NFL fans have made into a god. He is a phenomenal athlete, maybe one of the best. But AB is a shell of a man, empty and adrift. He has given us a glimpse of his tragic life perspective.

Travis Pulver, in “NFL Legend Antonio Brown Continues to be his Own Worst Enemy,” shares how this perspective displays itself. This life has produced 15 controversies in the last 20 months, including sexual assault allegations. Pulver characterizes AB’s behavior as “tumultuous tirades, defiant rants, belligerent, pugnacious, extremely non-compliant, flagrantly disorderly, and participating in child-like tantrums.” In AB’s life fantasy, as a professional athlete god, there are no rules, standards, or accountability. He believes he is a kingdom unto himself. When you think you are the center of the universe, you are on a collision course with reality.

On his sports show, Pat McAfee lamented that he hopes AB gets his life corrected but wondered if that was possible and whether he will ever play again. Pat then asks, who will help him figure it out?

AB’s behavior and worldview and McAfee’s prompting point us to the question of what the purpose of life is. Is it material possessions, fame, status, wealth, popularity, success, personal attention? No. These things only bring superficial and temporary gratification.

R.C. Sproul, Jr., in a Behind the Steel Curtain article, titled, “10 Things I Think I Thought About the Antonio Brown Fall-Out,” finishes his thoughts with #10: “Hey AB- #call God.”

Where does meaning in our lives come from? It is truly ironic to realize, viewing AB’s life as a case in point, that if we seek to please ourselves, there is a massive void in our lives and a lack of contentment. Our calling in life is to selflessly serve, not to be served. We have been designed in such a way that selfishness is unsatisfying. We were all created as worshippers. The question is, what will we place at the center of our lives?

AB appeared in Drake’s God’s Plan video, which communicated the message that we can’t do life on our own. His life would be transformed if he worshiped and relied on someone other than himself who is truly worthy of his devotion, namely Jesus Christ. Bringing a Christ-centered satisfaction to football would be a game-changer for Antonio Brown.

In The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness, author Tim Keller outlines what brings tangible purpose and contentment to our lives: solely focusing on the One who created us and then deeming others more important than ourselves. A coach whom I serve under as team chaplain, and one whom I truly respect, tells his players: “Don’t think more of yourself; don’t think less of yourself. Think of yourself less.” This is the opposite of Antonio Brown’s life mantra. Self-praise nor things of this world will ever be soul satisfying. The book of Ecclesiastes testifies to this point, stating that if we try to find our meaning, satisfaction, and purpose in what God has made rather than in the Lord Himself, we will never rest. This message is concisely expressed by Summer’s Best Two Weeks sports camp in its theme “I’m Third: God first; others second; I’m third.”

Our heartfelt mission will dictate and drive what we do, say, and think. AB, what will your testimony be? Will it be self-promotion, selfishness, and egotistic admiration, or will it be a new-found sense of overwhelming thankfulness for your God-given athletic prowess and a change of heart and priorities? Your impact, life, football career, and legacy will depend on it.

About James Thrasher

Dr. Jim Thrasher is the Senior Advisor to the Vice President for Student Recruitment and the coordinator of the Institute for Faith and Freedom working group on calling.

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