Here’s what we learned:

A lawsuit was filed against the player by a woman accusing him of raping her. The player denied the charge. A second woman came forth and said she, too, was sexually victimized by the player. The player denied that charge, as well.

At least one company that contracted the player to endorse its product terminated that agreement because of the heinous allegations.

But enough about Ben Roethlisberger.

This is about Antonio Brown, who after being handed a pink slip by the New England Patriots on Friday lashed out on Twitter on Sunday that he was done with the NFL because it was castigating him more harshly for the same allegations against him that were leveled a decade ago against his one-time quarterback, Roethlisberger, in Pittsburgh.

There is no question that Brown, who in the past half year forced a trade from the Steelers, quit Oakland over a row with the general manager and got fired by New England after he attacked his accusers by text message, is guilty of self-immolation. The Pittsburgh organization from which he demanded out was a perennially winning franchise. The Raiders team he left in the lurch after a hissy fit with the general manager was going to give him a $30 million bonus with his first game check. The Patriots team that decided to cut him loose is the nonpareil standard-bearer of pro football success.

And over it all grew vomitous sexual assault allegations against him for which his reaction hasn’t even been to express shame that any woman would claim him to be such a degenerate.

But there is some truth in his tweetstorm Sunday that included attacks on Roethlisberger, as well as Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was charged in a massage parlor prostitution sting that early on was thought to be part of an anti-sex trafficking investigation. It is that there appears at times to be different treatment for various NFL actors accused of seemingly similar crimes, or of any type of delinquency at all.

Kraft, for example, has yet to be punished by his fellow owners, his lawyers were successful at getting the video evidence of his alleged offense suppressed and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell embraced him in August when the league partnered with Jay-Z on its social justice initiative.

A study last week by USA Today argued “NFL coaches have not faced the same pre-employment scrutiny as players [for previous incidents of domestic violence] . . . giving credence to critics who say the NFL’s efforts on domestic violence are little more than a public relations campaign.”

It is a observation born out in how the NFL, the media and the public discourse mediate alleged transgressions in the league. It is a thought colored by race, stoked by stature and forged by time. It is not new.

When Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in Deflategate was initially reversed, then-NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall said black players thought Brady caught a break reserved for white players. “White players, specifically at the quarterback position, are treated differently,” Marshall said.

It reminded of Abe Hawkins, the first black sports star as a jockey of the mid-19th century, who was suspected of fixing some races, just as some of his white competitors, but suffered banishment from the sport for a time. More recently, it brought to mind Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay being busted in 2014 for a DWI in which police found almost $30,000 in cash stuffed in a briefcase and laundry bag and numerous bottles packed with prescription drugs in his SUV. Irsay was suspended six games by the NFL, which around the same time kicked linebacker Daryl Washington out of the league indefinitely, which lasted three seasons, for a marijuana violation.

The NFL didn’t take action against Roethlisberger after a Lake Tahoe hotel worker filed a civil suit against him in July 2009 alleging he’d raped her. Less than a year later, a college student in middle Georgia reported to police that Roethlisberger raped her in a bar’s bathroom. A month later, that woman informed prosecutors she didn’t have the fortitude to go forward with what would have been a very public case. Goodell responded to it all by suspending Roethlisberger first for six games, but eventually just four, for violating what existed at the time as the league’s personal conduct policy.

Some companies dropped Roethlisberger as a celebrity endorser, but Nike, which severed ties with Brown the other day, did not. In 2012, Roethlisberger settled the lawsuit for undisclosed terms.

That was, of course, before Ray Rice, the one-time star Baltimore Ravens running back who in 2014 was at first suspended two games after a police investigation found he exchanged punches with his then-fiancee. Later, he was jettisoned from the league forever after a video surfaced that captured the fight as fully one-sided: Rice cold-cocked his future wife in an elevator.

The incident ushered in new league procedures and penalties for dealing with domestic violence, for which Brown is subject and Roethlisberger’s previous behavior is not. So the league is pulling in Brown’s accusers. It is investigating him even though a criminal complaint was not filed. It can sideline him indefinitely. It can expel him from the league based on its findings.

On Monday, Brown tweeted he enrolled at Central Michigan, where he starred as a college football player for three years. He left before completing requirements to graduate.

But he may best be served by learning some lessons from the Reform School of Roethlisberger.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into my life, the decisions that I’ve made in the past,” Roethlisberger said in June 2010 when he first spoke publicly. “I’m looking forward to the second chance and the second opportunity.”

No women have since added his name to a police blotter. He married in 2011. He has three kids. In 2015, he signed a four-year contract with the Steelers worth $87.4 million.

Antonio Brown doesn’t have to live the reality of perception unless, sadly, it proves true.


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