Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a serious problem in the NFL. This neurodegenerative disease is caused by repeated head blows and can lead to serious brain problems, including memory loss and behavioral changes. Only now doctors are fully realizing just how pervasive CTE is among football players.
Amanza Smith of the Netflix series, Selling Sunset, has clearly kept up with current CTE research. Her ex-husband, former NFL player Ralph Brown, has been missing since August 2019. Now, Smith wonders whether his disappearance might be related to CTE. Let’s look at Brown’s NFL career, his disappearance, and Smith’s recent speculations about his condition.
Ralph Brown’s NFL career
Brown enjoyed a successful college football career playing for the University of Nebraska. There he earned three First-team All-Big 12 selections and was a consensus All-American in his final year. The New York Giants subsequently selected the 5-foot-10 cornerback with the 140th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Brown played a limited role in his first two seasons, before getting more playing time in 2002 when he racked up 43 combined tackles and made one interception. He had another solid season the following year, starting in a career-high seven games and intercepting two passes for 51 yards.
After four years with the Giants, Brown embarked on a journeyman career that saw him play for the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, and Arizona Cardinals. In 10 total seasons, he accumulated 245 combined tackles and six interceptions. Though he never crossed over into star territory, Brown was a solid player and excelled as a veteran mentor.
Smith and Brown’s relationship
Amanza Smith is a former model and cheerleader. Today she’s a real estate agent and cast member of the Netflix reality show Selling Sunset. She and Brown wed in July 2010, a year after he retired from the NFL. By then, they had already had their daughter Noah. Their son Braker was born a year later, in 2011.
Smith and Brown’s marriage didn’t last too much longer, with most reports concluding that the two split up sometime in 2012. Financial problems apparently had something to do with their divorce. Smith publicly stated that, at the time of their separation, Brown “unfortunately couldn’t even pay child support,” reports E! News.
That was when Smith decided to strike out on a new career path, getting her license as a real estate agent. Meanwhile, Brown continued to act as a father to his two children, splitting custody 50-50 with Smith. That arrangement lasted up until August 2019, when the world lost track of Brown.
Ralph Brown’s unexplained disappearance, according to Amanza Smith
On August 26, 2019, Brown dropped his two children off at school like he had countless times. There was one difference: It was the last time Smith — or anybody for that matter — would see Brown. Since then, his whereabouts and health have remained a complete mystery, despite Smith’s attempts to track him down.
A few months ago, Brown’s year-long disappearance entered the national spotlight. Since then, friends and former NFL teammates have verified they don’t know where Brown is. Some have speculated that he just needed to get “off the grid”; others believe he may be dealing with more serious issues.
One of those concerned parties just so happens to be Smith. She has even wondered aloud whether Brown had “some sort of mental breakdown” related to undiagnosed CTE. Smith’s motives aren’t completely clear, reports The Sun, since in an attempt to get custody of their children she has also speculated that Brown might be homeless and even abusing drugs.
Of course, her CTE theory does hold some water. The behavior-altering effects of CTE are well-documented at this point. Tragic examples abound in the ranks of the NFL, from the suicides of Aaron Hernandez and Junior Seau to the aging problems experienced by players. If Brown is suffering from CTE, NFL fans and players wish him well and hope he is found.