Antonio Brown accused of obtaining fake vaccination card before camp
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to avoid NFL protocols before training camp, his former personal chef told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Brown's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, told chef Steven Ruiz on July 2 that "Ab" was willing to pay $500 for a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card.
"Can you get the COVID cards?" Moreau asked Ruiz in a text.
She added: "JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500."
Ruiz said the receiver wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine card because it requires only a single shot and, therefore, less paperwork. He added that Brown was apparently worried getting the vaccine could have negative effects on his body.
Ruiz said he wasn't able to find a fake vaccination card for Brown. However, the 33-year-old receiver allegedly showed him fake cards he obtained weeks later.
The pair parted ways because Ruiz said Brown still owes him $10,000.
Brown's lawyer, Sean Burstyn, released a statement Thursday following reports of Ruiz's accusations, saying his client is vaccinated.
"Antonio Brown appreciates the severity of the pandemic, which is why he got the vaccine and supports everyone for whom it is advisable to get the vaccine," Burstyn said. "Coronavirus has hit close to home as it took him out of a game. He is healthy, vaccinated, and ready to win another Super Bowl.
"One of the worst parts of the pandemic has been a movement to cast doubt on our country's vaccination programs with baseless, vindictive tabloid gossip."
The Buccaneers also issued a statement in response to the accusations Thursday, saying "no irregularities were observed" after club personnel looked into all vaccination cards sent by players.
"After an extensive educational process conducted throughout our organization this past offseason highlighting the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, we received completed vaccination cards from all Tampa Bay Buccaneers players and submitted the required information to the NFL through the established process in accordance with league policy," the team said.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement that the league "will review the matter," according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
McCarthy previously said teams are responsible for verifying personnel and player vaccination status, and any attempt to use a fake card is reviewed under the personal conduct policy and may result in the individual facing discipline, according to Stroud.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said on Sept. 9 before the Bucs opened the 2021 season that his team was fully vaccinated.
Brown missed one game this year after testing positive for COVID-19 before a Week 3 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. He was sidelined for 10 days.
Players who are vaccinated can return if they are asymptomatic and record two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart. Vaccinated individuals with symptoms and unvaccinated players must remain away from the team facility for a minimum of 10 days.