Antonio Brown Accused Of Using Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Card
BOSTON (CBS) -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has remained out of trouble since joining the team last season. That may soon change.
Brown was accused of obtaining a fake vaccination card by his former live-in chef, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. The chef alleged that Brown "was worried about the vaccine's potential negative effects on his body."
The NFL does not have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for players, but vaccinated players operate under a different set of protocols from unvaccinated players.
The report alleges that Brown's girlfriend told the chef -- Steven Ruiz -- that Brown was willing to pay $500 to obtain a falsified Johnson & Johnson vaccination card.
Ruiz said he did not provide the card for Brown, but that "Brown showed him fake vaccination cards" for Brown and his girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, several weeks after making the request.
"Brown wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine card, Ruiz alleged, because it's the only one that consists of a single shot and would require less paperwork," Stroud reported.
When approached by the Tampa Bay Times, Moreau denied that she knows Brown at all.
The Buccaneers declined to comment on the story, "and Brown did not respond to messages left on his cell phone," according to Stroud.
After the report was released, the Buccaneers did release a statement, which said that no "irregularities" were found when observing players' vaccination cards.
The report also notes that the chef alleges that Brown owes him $10,000. Not paying workers was a common complaint from former associates of Brown in a 2019 Sports Illustrated article.
The report also noted that Tom Brady's trainer, Alex Guerrero, photographed Brown's vaccination card as part of the Buccaneers' system of recording players' vaccination cards. Guerrero was likely unaware that the card was fake, according to Ruiz.
Brown's attorney, Sean Burstyn, denied the allegations in a statement.
"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 told Stroud. "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."
Ruiz alleged to the Times that Burstyn offered him money to not go public with the accusation, with Ruiz requesting to be paid for the money he believes he is owed for the services he provided to Brown.
Despite not having a contract with any team, Brown was suspended for eight weeks to start the 2020 season for multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy. If the NFL investigates the claim and deems it to be true, Brown would assuredly be facing another suspension.
In the NHL, Sharks forward Evander Kane was suspended for 21 games -- a quarter of the season -- for using a fake vaccination card.
The 33-year-old Brown has played in just five games this year, due to an ankle injury.
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