BOSTON (CBS) -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been suspended for three games without pay for misrepresenting his vaccination status, the NFL announced Thursday.
Brown was one of three players to be hit with a suspension on Thursday, along with Tampa Bay's Mike Edwards and free agent John Franklin III. All three players waived their right for an appeal. Franklin III will have to serve his suspension if he signs with a team.
"The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority," the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. "The protocols were jointly developed working with our respective experts to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic. The NFL-NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL."
Brown was accused of using a fake vaccination card back in November, which was brought to light by his former personal chef. Steven Ruiz alleged that Brown's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, contacted him about Brown's willingness to pay $500 for a falsified Johnson & Johnson vaccination card.
While Ruiz did not get him the vaccination card, he told Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times that "Brown showed him fake vaccination cards, which the wide receiver told Ruiz he had purchased for himself and Moreau."
While the NFL does not have a COVID-19 vaccinate mandate in place for players, those who have been vaccinated have a much different set of protocols than unvaccinated players. The league looked into the accusation against Brown, and determined that he did indeed falsify his vaccination status.
Now the Tampa receiver -- who has had issues in all of his previous stops in Pittsburgh, Oakland and New England -- will have to miss games against the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints. Brown will be eligible to return in Week 16.
"We appreciate the League's timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established," the Buccaneers said in a release after the NFL's announcement. "We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols."
Brown's lawyer, Sean Burstyn, said Thursday that Brown is vaccinated but opted to accept suspension "instead of going through the drawn out and distracting process of challenging the outcome." Burstyn added that Brown will use the time to work his way back from an ankle injury.
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