Antonio Brown joins Albany Empire ownership group
Albany’s arena football team got a big boost today from one of the sport’s most talented and divisive figures.
Antonio Brown is known as an ex-NFL firebrand, and the son of Firebird royalty. Brown’s father, Touchdown Eddie Brown, starred for the defunct Albany Firebirds throughout the 90s, leading the franchise to the 1999 ArenaBowl title.
Brown’s son, known as AB, went on to be a seven-time NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, a versatile wide receiver who starred for the Steelers, Patriots and Buccaneers.
Antonio Brown spent part of his childhood in the area during his dad’s career, and on social media Wednesday night, he announced his return:
“Albany, New York, I’m here, it’s a big announcement in the morning. Stay tuned,” he said.
By the morning, word was out: one of the football world’s most famous names is buying into the Albany Empire, the city’s latest arena football franchise. Brown was introduced at an MVP Arena press conference.
“Being here with my dad, and my kids, and just giving the community and the players opportunity to live out their dreams,” Brown said. “For me, it was easy. I’m just excited to be here and excited to bring Albany Empire a three-peat and see these players and the community live out their dreams.”
Although he’s still only 34, Brown isn’t joining the Empire as a player, but rather a part owner. And his father will join the front office to work on day-to-day operations. Antonio Brown, dressed in a fur coat, told reporters he’s looking forward to renewing his ties with the Capital Region, where he went to elementary school.
The Empire’s embrace of Antonio Brown is clearly a headline-grabber, but comes with its share of baggage. His NFL career came to an ignominious end with the Bucs in early 2022, when he took off his shirt and pads and ran off the MetLife field in the third quarter of a game, never to play another down. Brown claimed Tampa Bay had mishandled his ankle injuries and the Buccaneers promptly released him.
Brown was also suspended for eight games in 2020 after a no contest plea to battery and burglary charges, and he was accused of sending intimidating messages to a woman who claimed he made unwanted advances.
But with the city’s most famous pro football alum in the house and his likely Hall of Fame son on hand, the Empire focused Thursday on generating buzz for the upcoming season.
Mike Kwarta is the Empire’s majority owner. He says the goal is to keep this iteration of Albany indoor football sustainable.
“You had the old Firebirds a couple times. You’ve had the Conquest. You had the Empire in ’18 and ’19,” he said. “What we are doing and what we are setting up is for the future. It’s to make it so arena football stays in Albany forever. But it’s gotta be real, it’s gotta be sustainable, and it’s gotta be about the community.”
Eddie Brown hit a similar note in the arena that hosted his greatest football performances. The Empire retired his jersey back in 2018 at a ceremony attended by his son.
“Through all the mistakes that we all make and different things that we do, there’s nothing like family,” he said. “I was able to learn that here and in the community. I have a lot of great relationships that are still brewing now, and to be able to walk into MVP Arena and the first statement I get with is ‘Welcome home,’ life is great.”
The Empire, heading into their third season in the National Arena League, begin play April 16.
Albany Empire Press Conference - Live Stream https://t.co/d1gECm2El6— Albany Empire (@AlbanyEmpireNAL) March 2, 2023