Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown ate a slice of humble pie Thursday, served to him by his own former personal chef.
The NFL found that the star wide receiver of the reigning Super Bowl champions “misrepresented” his COVID-19 vaccination status and suspended him without pay for three games. His teammate Mike Edwards and former teammate John Franklin III were also suspended for claiming to be vaccinated. NFL players are not required to be vaccinated, but those who are not must abide by stringent safety protocols, and the league found that all three had not complied with its rules.
Brown’s former private chef, Steven Ruiz, who once lived with the football player, accused him of using a fake vaccination card while speaking to the Tampa Bay Times in mid-November. Ruiz said Brown’s girlfriend offered the chef $500 to procure a fake Johnson & Johnson vaccine card for the player, a potential federal crime. Ruiz said he refused. The NFL did not specify whether the players had made use of forged immunization records.
The Buccaneers had claimed every player on the roster had been vaccinated and that team management had seen every player’s vaccine card. Brown tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the season and missed a game.
Brown, Edwards, and Franklin face stiffer penalties than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had publicly said that he had been “immunized” against COVID-19 but later revealed he was unvaccinated. Rodgers tested positive for the virus last month and has not played since.
Brown has been suspended before. In 2019, the NFL found he had violated the league’s personal conduct policy in the wake of a series of allegations involving rape, sexual misconduct, and threats against his accusers. He was released from the New England Patriots after a single game with the team.