Keyshawn Johnson says NFL is 'bullying' showmen like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham
The former wide receiver thinks the NFL needs to embrace its charismatic players
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
By Pete Blackburn
Back in Keyshawn Johnson's prime as an NFL wide receiver, he was known as a bit of a "diva." He danced, he celebrated, and he always wanted the damn ball.
But if you ask Johnson, he'll tell you that a diva and a showman aren't the same thing, and the latter is classified as the former far too often these days. The 44-year-old Johnson, who worked as an NFL analyst following his retirement, says that players with personalities who are a little eccentric or fun often get called divas, presumably because they attract more attention.
"It's a label that someone gave a receiver and now every wide receiver who has fun is a diva," Johnson told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. "... I personally don't like how people refer to that word. Skill-position players in general are fun and have fun. That's just the way it is."
Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are two of the league's best active wideouts, and both have become notorious for their on-field antics and wacky celebrations. They'll face off Sunday when the Giants head into Pittsburgh, and cameras will undoubtedly be trained on them for almost the entire game.
Johnson is a fan of them, both for their skills and for the personality that they bring to the game, and believes that they shouldn't change or suppress their fun side despite what people might say about them. He also hints that the league should find a way to help embrace that personality.
"I like what these guys are doing. I think they should keep having fun," Johnson said. "The league will eventually find a sweet spot [with the touchdown celebrations] because people are tired of the league bullying people."
Regardless of whether you agree with Johnson's assessment of the "diva" tag, it's hard to argue with him regarding the NFL and its bullying. Too many times we've seen guys fined by the league for minor celebrations or going a little out of their way to be different. It didn't get the "No Fun League" moniker by accident.