Antonio Brown out as arena league owner; Albany terminated for missed payments

Antonio Brown Bucs
Antonio Brown
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL receiver Antonio Brown’s brief and chaotic tenure as a National Arena League owner appears to be over after the league terminated the Albany Empire’s membership over a failure to make its monthly payments.

The NAL on Thursday announced its board of owners unanimously reached the decision after “exhausting all avenues” over the Empire’s refusal to make its past two payments, as well as Brown refusing to pay a $1,000 fine conduct detrimental to the league over recent comments. The termination ends the Empire’s season at 1-6 and with seven games remaining.

Antonio Brown became part owner of the two-time defending champion Empire in March and then last month took over a 94% stake in the franchise based in New York’s state capital.

The NAL said that upon taking over ownership, Brown initially paid the Empire’s April assessment, before challenging it a month later and having it credited back to him, while also failing to make the team’s payment for May. Teams are required to make the payments, which represent one-seventh of the league’s monthly operating budget.

The NAL said Brown’s accountant, Alex Gunaris, informed the league “that it didn’t seem like Mr. Brown was going to pay the assessment or fine.”

A message left with Empire president Alberony Denis was not immediately returned.

Albany County’s executive committee released a statement, saying: “This is an unfortunate situation. We are aware MVP Arena management is alerting ticketholders and we will be reviewing options moving forward.” MVP Arena management, which operates the Empire’s home, announced it is refunding tickets purchased for the team’s final three home games.

Antonio Brown spent the 2010 to 2018 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he emerged as one of the NFL’s top threats, and twice led the league in yards receiving. His career then took a downturn due to various on- and off-field controversies, included his contract being voided by the Oakland Raiders before the start of the 2019 season.

Antonio Brown Steelers
Antonio Brown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (wikimedia commons)

He split his final three NFL seasons with New England and Tampa Bay, and his career ended with Brown stripping off his jersey, pads, and gloves while walking off the field during the Buccaneers’ 2021 regular-season finale against the New York Jets. Brown announced his retirement a few months later.

The drama carried over into Antonio Brown’s tenure in Albany. Players and suppliers complained about not getting paid, the Empire changed coaches three games into the season at the same time eight players were suspended after one player filed an aggravated harassment report with police over a dispute that occurred on the team bus, The Albany Times-Union reported last month.

On Wednesday, Brown conducted a television interview in which he referred to himself as receiver Antonio Brown in preparing to suit up and play in the team’s previously scheduled game against Jacksonville this weekend, and wondering if Empire owner AB will pay him the $1 million he is owed.

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