Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Times reported Thursday that, according to Steven Ruiz — a former personal chef for the wide receiver — Brown had his girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to Ruiz over the summer to obtain a fake vaccination card that said Brown had received the Johnson & Johnson shot. According to text messages provided by Ruiz, Moreau offered $500 for a fake card.
Ruiz said he was unable to acquire a fake card for Brown, according to the report, but he added that the wide receiver a few weeks later showed him ones he had for himself and Moreau that he said he had purchased. Brown reportedly was unwilling to get the vaccine because of possible side effects.
Ruiz said he went public with the accusation after Brown failed to pay $10,000 owed to him, according to the Times.
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Responding to the Times story, the Buccaneers released a statement saying they had “received completed vaccination cards from all Tampa Bay Buccaneers players.”
“All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed,” the team said.
Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, told ESPN’s Jenna Laine on Thursday that Brown is vaccinated, and he said, “If Antonio’s doctors and the guidelines require a booster shot, then at that time, he’ll be happy to do it live on TV and everyone can come watch.”
Moreau told the Times that she did not know Ruiz and denied his accusation.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement that league representatives were “aware of the report and have been in contact with the club. We will review the matter.”
Brown missed the Buccaneers’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after testing positive for COVID-19 four days before the game. He was activated the following week but has since missed the past three games with an ankle injury.
Vaccinations are not required for players. Should players decline to be vaccinated, however, they must abide by a different set of rules, which includes daily testing, mask wearing, not congregating in groups of more than three outside team facilities, no use of the steam room, not eating with teammates during meals and strict limitations during travel.
All clubs are responsible for verifying player vaccination status. Players, coaches and other team employees must present their vaccination cards to club medical staff for verification.
No NFL team reported any issues during the vaccine card verification process. Tampa Bay did make vaccines available to its employees on multiple occasions at the facility.
Any attempt by NFL team personnel or players to use a forged or fake card would fall under the personal conduct policy, the league said. In addition, it is a federal criminal offense to produce a fake vaccine card. The topic was raised by the league on July 22 in a video conference with all 32 NFL teams prior to the start of training camp. Teams were told to scrutinize the cards carefully due to the legal and safety issues associated with fake vaccine cards.
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