Antonio Brown accused of using false COVID-19 vaccination card; Lawyer of Bucs WR responds to claim – Community News

Antonio Brown accused of using false COVID-19 vaccination card; Lawyer of Bucs WR responds to claim

A former Antonio Brown resident chef has accused the Buccaneers wide recipient of obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card last summer to evade NFL protocols, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday.

Steven Ruiz sent texts to the Times that appeared to show a conversation between Ruiz and Brown’s girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, asking if Ruiz could get a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card and Moreau said in the message that Brown would pay $500 for one. The rationale for having Johnson & Johnson printed on the card was that it was a single shot and therefore wouldn’t need as much paperwork, Ruiz told the Times.

Ruiz said he couldn’t get the card, but Brown later showed his chef that he’d gotten it for both himself and Moreau before the Buccaneers’ training camp started.

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a response to the Times story that Brown has been vaccinated.

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“Antonio Brown appreciates the gravity of the pandemic, which is why he got the vaccine and supports everyone for whom it is advisable to get the vaccine,” Burstyn told the Times. “Coronavirus has struck close to home because it took him out of a game. He is healthy, vaccinated and ready to win another Super Bowl.

“One of the worst aspects of the pandemic has been a move to cast doubt on our country’s vaccination programs with baseless, vindictive gossip in the tabloids.”

According to the Times report, Brown and Ruiz got into an argument because Brown owed him $10,000. The Times reported that Ruiz spoke publicly after the two sides failed to reach a settlement.

Burstyn called Ruiz on Nov. 8 to discuss a potential settlement, according to phone logs provided, according to the Times. According to the Times reporting, Burstyn asked how much money Ruiz wanted, and Ruiz replied that he was only looking for what he claims Brown owes him.

MORE: NFL Vaccine Rules

According to the Times report, personal trainer and TB12 co-founder Alex Guerrero went to Brown’s home to work with him recovering from knee surgery. Guerrero snapped a photo of the vaccination card and sent it to head coach Bobby Slater to help with the documentation of vaccinated players. Ruiz told the Times he doesn’t think Guerrero knew the card was fake.

The Buccaneers said in a statement that “no irregularities were observed” when they examined players’ vaccination cards. Bucs coach Bruce Arians said before the season that 100 percent of the team had been vaccinated.

However, The Times reported that the Buccaneers’ chief legal officer, Dan Malasky, was contacted in mid-October about Brown and another unidentified Bucs player by Kevin Blatt, a Los Angeles “media broker” working on Ruiz’s behalf. Ruiz, who called Blatt a “fixer” known in LA, told the Times that he turned to Blatt after deciding that suing Brown in civil court would have cost him more than $10,000.

Neither Brown, Brown’s agent nor Guerrero responded to requests for comment from the Times.

NFL COVID-19 Protocols

If the NFL determines that Brown has used a fake vaccination card, he will almost certainly also be found to be in violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, especially if he has not been vaccinated at all.

Unvaccinated individuals must be tested for COVID-19 every day and must wear a mask at all times in team facilities. They also cannot congregate in groups larger than three individuals.

Brown tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the Buccaneers’ Week 3 game against the Rams. The Tampa Bay Times noted that Brown was in isolation for 10 days, the same amount of time that unvaccinated players are kept. But the report did not specify whether Brown was symptomatic or unable to test negative twice in a row in a 24-hour period.

Brown has been out with a foot injury since week 6, but had held press conferences indoors without a mask, which violates protocols for unvaccinated players.

In a recent example of protocol violations, Aaron Rodgers was fined $14,650 and the Packers organization fined $300,000. Although Rodgers said he told the team he had not been vaccinated, he still held indoor press conferences without a mask and was found to be maskless in team facilities.

A false vaccination card would add an extra element. For starters, if the Buccaneers didn’t know that Brown was violating COVID protocols all season, they could avoid fines from the league.

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False vaccine cards have reportedly been a problem within the NFL. According to a September report from Defector, an NFL agent said he expected 10 to 15 percent of players would have a false vaccination card.

An NFL spokesperson told Defector that teams were asked to examine the cards they were given and reminded teams that using a fake vaccination card is not only a health risk, but a federal crime.

“Any attempt by team personnel or players to use a counterfeit or counterfeit card would be assessed under the Personal Conduct Policy and subject the individuals to disciplinary action. In addition, it is a federal offense. No club has reported such activity during the verification process,” the spokesperson told Defector.

Brown has had problems with the competition before. He was suspended before the start of the 2020 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The suspension was related to a no-contest plea that Brown made in January 2020 against burglary and battery charges, as well as for harassing texts he allegedly sent a woman for making unwanted advances towards her.

What is the federal penalty for using a false vaccination card?

As the NFL spokesperson told Defector, it is a federal crime to use a false vaccination card, which could land Brown in trouble outside of the league.

According to the Times report, making, using and/or selling a false vaccination card is a crime and can lead to fines and up to five years in prison.

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