Antonio Brown has been suspended for three games by the NFL and NFLPA for allegedly faking his COVID-19 vaccination status.
The league and players’ union found that Brown was among three players who misrepresented their vaccination statuses. A former personal chef of Brown’s said earlier this month that the wide receiver had obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card over the summer.
Also suspended for three games were Buccaneers backup safety Mike Edwards and free-agent wide receiver John Franklin III, whom Tampa Bay waived in August. All three players accepted their discipline and will not appeal, according to the NFL.
Brown’s and Edwards’ suspensions are without pay. Both will be eligible to return to the Buccaneers’ lineup for the team’s Dec. 26 game against the Carolina Panthers. The NFL and NFLPA negotiated the length of the suspension ahead of Thursday’s announcement, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
All three players are now vaccinated and admitted wrongdoing to the league in the investigative process, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
The league’s investigation found that Brown brought a fake vaccination card with him to training camp, but shortly after he arrived someone told him having one could get him in trouble, so he made the decision to get vaccinated, sources told Graziano.
Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a statement that Brown “continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate.”
Chef Steven Ruiz said earlier this month that Brown had his girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to him over the summer to obtain a fake vaccination card. After Ruiz was unable to acquire a fake card for Brown, he said that a few weeks later the wide receiver showed him ones he had for himself and Moreau that Brown said he had purchased.
Ruiz told ESPN that Brown had obtained his fake vaccine card from a Buccaneers teammate. Ruiz declined to name the other player.
Burstyn had denied that Brown obtained a fake vaccine card.
Brown said Wednesday when asked about his vaccine card on the Richard Sherman Podcast, “That’s the sad part. The country say, ‘You’re innocent until proven guilty,’ but you’re guilty till you show innocence, because anything someone says, everyone’s already magnifying it, and if you come out and say anything, you just put yourself in deeper holes because now it’s like … I learned to realize criticism is answered with achievement. When people criticize you, there’s no need to respond or worry. …”
While Brown did not publicly discuss his vaccination status, Edwards wore a mask when he met with reporters at the beginning of training camp, which is required for players who are unvaccinated. Asked about his vaccination status, Edwards said at the time, “I don’t really want to talk about vaccinations really. It is what it is. I don’t really want to get into that.”
We will have to see if AB has a job after the suspension is up.