We recently featured a new series here on SportsChump called Shut the Funk Up, within which we highlight those in professional sports we’d really like to tell to STFU and compare them to legends of music’s most underappreciated genre: the funk.
In this edition, we feature two all-time greats, the NFL’s former (and still highly disgruntled) wide receiver Antonio Brown and his funk corollary, none other than front man of Sly and the Family Stone: Sylvester Stewart.
There is nobody the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and perhaps Steelers, Raiders, Patriots and even the NFL Commissioner) would like to tell to Shut the Funk Up more than Antonio Brown.
In February 2021, the Buccaneers hoisted their first Super Bowl trophy in nearly twenty years. A team that had struggled with irrelevance for two decades became contenders the moment Tom Brady strolled into their locker room.
Once Brady came to town, a slew of talented players followed suit. One of those players was Antonio Brown, who first grabbed everyone’s attention as a member of Pittsburgh Steelers back in the mid-2010s. Over that time, Brown was arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver, having led the league in receptions (twice), yardage (twice) and touchdowns once. But with the good came the bad. In Pittsburgh, he had run-ins with teammates, including calling Ben Roethlisberger a racist, and was soon shipped to the Oakland Raiders, for whom he never played a game. The Raiders cut him after a controversial Instagram post within which he asked for his release.
Enter Tom Brady. Recognizing Brown’s talent, Brady, who was still with the Patriots at the time, thought it might be a good idea to bring him to New England. It was… for one game. The Pats released Brown amid sexual assault charges from one of Brown’s former personal trainers. Brown would soon be looking for NFL job number four.
That’s when Tom Brady, now with the Buccaneers, came calling again. Brown’s talent was undeniable. You just never knew which Brown you were going to get, fearing eventually, the wacky Brown would rear his ugly head.
As the Buccaneers’ third option at wide receiver, the Bucs won a Super Bowl with him playing a huge part. The noise was kept to a minimum and a good time was had by all.
As the regular season neared its close, NFL fans saw something they’d never seen before, even by Brown’s standards, a shirtless-Antonio Brown jogging off the field, flailing his hands in the air, after head coach Bruce Arians had lost his patience. The Buccaneers had finally had enough of Brown’s volatility. Questioning his relationship with Brady, how the Bucs had mishandled his injuries and pretty much doing what Antonio Brown does, the Brown saga in Tampa ended with him trolling his team for not winning a Super Bowl without him. As of this writing, Brown remains untied to any NFL roster, which will likely stay that way as the baggage now far outweighs the benefits.
Brown’s chatter continued recently as he questioned Brady’s personal pre-season leave of absence. Not even ESPN talks about Brady as much as Antonio Brown. The hits, they keep on comin’. It wouldn’t be Antonio if that wasn’t the case, which leads us to our funktastic comparison.
Upon thinking of the continuing Brown saga, year after year, I couldn’t help by think of Sly and the Family Stone.
In the early 1970s, Sylvester Stewart took the musical scene by storm. Like Brown, Sly was as funky as they came and like Brown, he was revolutionary as well.
Sly and the Family Stone was the first band anyone ever saw that was both multi-racial and multi-gendered. Their sound was unmistakable and remains head-bob-inducing to this day. Sly’s lyrics were though-provokingly in your face and his genius brought funk to the forefront for millions.
With Sly, much like Antonio Brown, you also never knew what you were going to get. One long-time friend tells the story of attending a Sly concert, only to find no Sly. Apparently, he was too hopped up in his own funk and never took the stage.
A quick viewing of the Hulu documentary “Summer of Soul” recounts a concert in Harlem in the late 60s where one concert goer tells a similar story. Sly was rarely, if ever, on time, non-musically speaking of course. But once Sly hit that stage, he was a sight to be seen, a talent unlike any other.
Trust me. It pains me at to compare Antonio Brown even remotely to Sly, but the Family’s Graham-slapping rhythms thump about as loudly as we’d like to tell AB to shut the funk up. Brown has been a wrecking ball everywhere he’s been; Sly’s synthesized funk is wrecktacular in its own right.
In the end, Sly disappeared into obscurity the way we all wish Antonio Brown would. While all we have left of Sly are his classics, AB continues to invent new ones like raising a lawsuit against the Buccaneers, trying to force his way onto another team, threatening to buy the Denver Broncos with partner Kanye West and just being an overall nuisance.
Thank him, for letting him, be himself again? I think most of us would agree… no thank you.