Antonio Brown Gets Defensive While Discussing Latest Money Controversy With Arena Team, Reintroducing Coach He Fired

Antonio Brown is at the center of controversy, again. Rinse, repeat.

This time, though, the 34-year-old is not in the headlines as a player, or former player, but as an owner. Brown and his father purchased an ownership stake in a National Arena League football team, the Albany Empire, back at the beginning of March. His dad Eddie was a star offensive player for the Albany Firebirds in the 1990s so the team holds sentimental value.

However, less than two months after buying into the franchise, Brown is already in some hot water. Multiple Empire players and the team's head coach left the team on Monday after they claimed that they were not paid on time.

Brown addressed the reports, publicly, for the first time on Wednesday.

Antonio Brown tried to clear the air.

When asked if the six players that left the team were paid, Brown danced around a definitive answer.

He refused to address the situation head-on.

Everyone's paid here. I'm running a business. The MVP Arena is paid. I don't know what the minutiae of the articles, I don't want to get into the 'he said, she said.' Everyone is paid. If everyone wasn't paid you wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't be here.

Brown was equally as slippery with his words after a reporter doubled down and asked again whether those specific players were paid. His tone was very defensive.

Everybody on our payroll, you know payroll right? You know pay checks? You know you cant just get paid when you want, right? You know they run a course, right?

Although he didn't want to make it about himself, Brown then made it about himself.

I don't want to make this about me but I want to make this clear. I have put the most money ever into this community thus far. Into this team thus far. I paid a $1.5 million bill for worker's comp. You think I want to hear a player who's concerned about my payroll? Do you understand I just took over the situation here 100%?

Not long thereafter, Brown took to Twitter with a cryptic message on Wednesday night. It had a direct correlation to the payment controversy.

There is no telling what it means, unless you speak AB.

Meanwhile, the Empire must rebuild.

Seeing that six players and the head coach left the team, Albany's coaching staff and roster will look different during its next game. Brown's comments on Wednesday came during a press conference to reintroduce Tom Menas as the team's head coach.

Menas was fired on April 6, ten days before the start of the season. He had previously led the Empire to back-to-back league titles, but Brown said at the time of his firing that he wanted to take the organization in a different direction. Offensive coordinator Damon Ware was promoted to head coach, but left the team earlier this week.

Menas was shocked by the decision to let him go at the beginning of last month.

But now he's back!

My choice was to come here and keep football in upstate New York for the fans of the Albany Empire and the people of the Capital Region. That’s why I’m here.

Brown said that the decision to bring Menas back to Albany was easy.

It was a no-brainer man. Coach Menas is a championship coach. I don’t know what happened to the past or the previous before I met coach, but I only see a professional guy who cares about his players.

So then why did Brown fire him in the first place?!

As for the rest of the staff, Menas suggested earlier in the week that Ware was set to return as the offensive coordinator. On Wednesday, Menas said that Ware is taking a job with another NAL team.

The process to rebuild the roster is another thing. It began by adding former Harlon Hill Trophy (the D-II Heisman) winner Roland Rivers III. He joined the Empire on Tuesday after playing college football for Valdosta State and Slippery Rock from 2015 to 2019.

Menas said that getting a largely new roster up to speed in three days, before Albany's next game on Saturday is "almost impossible." They will do it, but it's "almost impossible."

Menas also weighed-in on the payment issues.

Although Menas was not with the team at the time of the mass exodus, he provided some insight.

I wish I was here because I think I could have handled it different with the guys and let them know but it did happen. Were they paid late? Yeah they were paid late, and then they were paid in full. And that was another one of my conditions to coming here was making sure all of the players had been paid.

The former-now-current head coach added that this isn't anything new. Menas has experienced payroll issues at every level of football — outside of the NFL. He says that it always gets taken care of, as it did in this instance.

None of this context makes the entire situation any more clear.

If anything, it's even more confusing.

Regardless of how it all went down, head coach Tom Menas will lead quarterback Roland Rivers III and the Albany Empire onto the field at home against the West Texas Warbirds at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.