Bucs' Antonio Brown, Mike Edwards Suspended for Misrepresenting Vaccination Status

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 14: Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The NFL suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games each for misrepresenting their COVID-19 vaccination status and violating the league's health and safety protocols.

NFL345 @NFL345

.<a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a> Suspends Three Players for Violating NFL-<a href="https://twitter.com/NFLPA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLPA</a> COVID-19 Protocols: <a href="https://t.co/IZRlpAsJTe">https://t.co/IZRlpAsJTe</a> <a href="https://t.co/g0QVRu42Hf">pic.twitter.com/g0QVRu42Hf</a>

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @Buccaneers

<a href="https://t.co/Jbsg7dsKwz">pic.twitter.com/Jbsg7dsKwz</a>

Free-agent wideout John Franklin III will be subject to a three-game ban as well if he signs with an NFL team.

Brown's agent, Sean Burstyn, disputed the NFL's findings:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

A statement from lawyer <a href="https://twitter.com/seanburstyn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@seanburstyn</a>, who represents Antonio Brown: <a href="https://t.co/QruBfEZNBG">pic.twitter.com/QruBfEZNBG</a>

A former personal chef for Brown had alleged to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud the seven-time Pro Bowler purchased a fake vaccine card.

Stroud shared a screenshot of a text conversation between Steven Ruiz and Brown's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau. Moreau asked Ruiz if he could obtain COVID-19 vaccination cards and that "Ab" would be willing to pay $500 for a card claiming he received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

After Ruiz said he couldn't obtain the cards, he said Brown later showed him fake vaccination cards for himself and Moreau he said he purchased.

Burstyn denied the allegation to Stroud:

"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. 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."

Burstyn also told ESPN's Jenna Laine that Brown would receive the COVID-19 booster shot if the NFL's guidelines advised him to do so.

The Buccaneers also addressed the matter and said that "all vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @Buccaneers

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After the league handed down a suspension on Thursday, Ruiz issued a statement:

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

From chef Steven Ruiz: “Today’s statement from the league proves that the information I provided to the Tampa Bay Times was true. Although I think a 3 game suspension is a minor punishment, I trust the leagues judgement and I’m glad the NFL conducted a swift investigation.”

This isn't the first such case of an athlete from a major American league allegedly using a falsified vaccination card.

The NHL suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games after Front Office Sports' A.J. Perez reported he submitted a fake card to league officials.

Tampa Bay placed Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Sept. 22, which left him unable to play in a 34-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3. He was activated on Sept. 30. Unvaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate for at least 10 days.

Brown and Edwards will now be ineligible to play until a Week 16 clash with the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 26. In the case of Brown, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported an ankle injury was expected to keep him out until at least Week 15.