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NFL star Antonio Brown threatens to walk out on $30 million contract over helmet row

NFL star Antonio Brown threatens to walk out on $30 million contract over helmet row
The Oakland Raiders' new big-money wide receiver Antonio Brown has reportedly told his team that he'll refuse to play unless the NFL reverses a decision to outlaw the model of helmet he has used throughout his professional career.

Brown became the highest-paid receiver in NFL history when he signed a deal with the Oakland franchise in March, after a nine-year spell with the Pittsburgh Steelers which saw him claim 74 touchdowns as well as seven Pro Bowl nominations. Debut in the Raiders' black and silver uniform could be delayed indefinitely, due to an official grievance the player has filed with the league regarding the non-approval of his headgear. 

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ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported on Friday that Brown has told his new team of his stance on the matter, but it remains to be seen if there is any wiggle room, as the helmet he uses has been discontinued under official NFL rules. 

Brown has been largely absent from the Raiders pre-season training camp, in part because of frostbite-like injuries he suffered after not wearing correct protective gear on his feet while receiving cryotherapy treatment in France last month, but the fracas over his helmet is also understood to be a reason for the wide receiver's non-attendance. 

The player cites the new, NFL-approved helmet as having elements to its facemask that obscure his line of sight, making his job of fielding catches that much more difficult.

However, the league has mandated criteria related to helmet technology to help limit the number of concussion-related injuries sustained by players. Furthermore, Brown's brief tenure with his new team is said to have gotten off to a bad start, according to NFL Network’s Mike Silver, who says that 'AB' is regularly late when reporting to camp and refuses to engage with players and coaching staff. 

"When he showed up for the 1st OTA (organized team activity), however, Brown requested his old helmet. After being told he’d have to wear an approved model, witnesses say, the WR loudly voiced his displeasure, complaining [quarterbacks] such as Brady and Rodgers were not being subjected to the same scrutiny," Silver reported.

"Shortly thereafter, Brown stormed out of the facility in protest. Later that day, Raiders officials found video footage of Rodgers, during the Green Bay Packers’ OTA session, wearing an approved-model helmet and sent it to Brown.

"The following day, Brown showed up in Alameda and acted like nothing had happened, accepting the new helmet from an equipment manager without protest and completing the workout. However, sometime in the next couple of weeks, Brown once again tried to take the field with his old helmet, which he had since had repainted with colors approximating – but not completely mimicking – the Raiders’ silver-and-black design."

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Should Brown follow through with his threat to hold out on playing for the team if his helmet demands are not met, it could mean he would be denying himself of a $30mn guarantee on his contract. Another option for the Raiders would be to invoke a rule called the 'Five Day Letter' which would compel Brown to report to camp within five days of receiving notice. Failure to do so would allow the team to deny his initial season payment of $14.5mn.

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