A former personal chef has accused Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown of obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday. This made public a rumor that’s been circulating in Florida football circles for weeks.
Antonio Brown accused of acquiring phony vaccination card
The live-in cook, Steven Ruiz, says Brown’s girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, offered Ruiz $500 for a doctored Johnson & Johnson vaccination card that Brown believed would satisfy the NFL’s vaccine guidelines. Ruiz ultimately could not procure one. But weeks later, both Brown and Moreau secured vaccination cards that Brown allegedly told his chef he had purchased. Brown’s attorney told the Tampa Bay Times that Ruiz’s allegations were false.
“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,” Sean Burstyn texted the Times. “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.”
What punishment could Brown face?
The National Football League, which has two separate rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated players, provided this statement to PFN through league spokesman Brian McCarthy:
“We are aware of the report and have been in contact with the club. We will review the matter.”
NFL rules dictate that clubs are responsible for verifying personnel and player vaccination status. Each person had to present their vaccination cards to club medical staff for verification, and no team has reported any issues during the verification process.
Any attempt by team personnel or players to use a forged or fake card would be reviewed under the personal conduct policy.
The Buccaneers released the following statement late Thursday:
“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. All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed.”
However, a league source first told PFN weeks ago that several NFL players believed that Brown was not actually vaccinated and that he had left them with the impression that he could put them in contact with the person who provided his card. PFN held off on reporting this because we were unable to verify many of the details at the time.
But the facts surrounding this story changed on Thursday when Ruiz came forward, miffed at a $10,000 outstanding debt he alleges Brown owes him.
A developing situation
As the Times points out, creating, using, and/or selling such cards is a felony subject to fines and up to five years in prison. Stay tuned to PFN for more information as it becomes available.