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Antonio Brown put his pain on display for all to see. Instead of helping, the Bucs cut bait.

“Everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it,” Tom Brady said. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him at his best. Unfortunately, he can’t be with our team, but we have a lot of friendships that will last. Everyone should be compassionate and empathetic with some of the difficult things that are happening.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to own Antonio Brown’s talent but not his problems. There is something disquieting about that. You may or may not find Brown relatable, but any sentient person has to flinch at the swiftness with which he was discarded after having an apparent emotional outburst at work. It’s an ugly institutional look: The Bucs used Brown’s body, only to fire him for his troubled mind, and now their biggest concern is how to “designate” him so he can’t go somewhere else and hurt them in the playoffs, writes Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post.

It doesn’t matter what triggered the outburst, whether dissatisfaction because of contract incentives or a demand by Coach Bruce Arians that he play on a sore ankle. The Bucs knew they were dealing with a volatile character and used him, calculatedly. They wanted to get what they could from him. And they had the right to walk away when they were discontented. He didn’t.

Brown’s situation exposes a glaring hole in the NFL’s otherwise laudable mental health initiatives: How can you cultivate human resources when the basic power construct of the league is inhumane and treats people as expendable, to be released with few guarantees? The Bucs knew Brown could be irrational, and they signed him anyway. He clearly lost his reason when he chucked off his shoulder pads and left the field midgame Sunday, refusing to fulfill his responsibility to the team. But what was their reasonable responsibility to him?

If you’re an NFL employer, your responsibility to a player ends the second you decide it does.

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