The Antonio Brown Helmet Debacle

Sean Baker

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Professional NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown’s helmet disagreement is causing all sorts of chaos around the league. He was prepared to sit out and not play for the Raiders this upcoming season, all because Brown wanted to wear his helmet that he has worn his entire career.

Brown has been wearing his same Schutt Air Advantage helmet since 2009. In 2014, this helmet was popular among NFL wide receivers. Other wide receivers wear the league’s required helmet, while Brown is the only player remaining in the league to still wear the helmet. The league has rejected older helmets because they no longer meet the new standards of safety. Brown was told that his helmet, the same one he has been wearing since his rookie season, is no longer certified for use by the NFL.

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is an organization that approves athletic equipment for safe play. The NOCSAE does not approve any equipment that is more than 10 years old, according to Brian McCarthy of the NFL. This means he is being required by the league to move to a new approved model for the upcoming season, and that is not something he is interested in doing. It got to the point where he was so insistent on wearing his preferred helmet that Brown filed a grievance against the NFL–evening threatening to retire and walk away from football entirely unless he is allowed to keep playing in the helmet he feels comfortable with. If the league forces him to change helmets and he gets hurt, then he plans to hold the NFL liable for his injury as a result. Le’veon Bell, former teammate of Brown, commented on the issues, remarking that he ” [understands] where he’s coming from, but at the same time, it’s a rule, so you have to change the helmet.”

 Antonio Brown is not the only player with this problem–Tom Brady had a similar issue in 2018. A few dozen players including Brady, continued to wear old helmets last year. Players were given a one year waiver to continue to wear their preferred helmets. Brady has also expressed a preference for the old helmet saying on New England’s Sports Station he doesn’t “…really love the one that [he’s] in” but does not have a choice.