By lying about his vaccination status, Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown put his teammates at risk, made a fool of his head coach and embarrassed the entire Tampa Bay organization.
Head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht have only one course of action: cut Brown from the team.
The Buccaneers made the decision last season that they could live with the alleged sexual misconduct, harassment and assault claims against Brown when they signed him last October. After all, Tom Brady wanted him there and believed Brown would fly straight under his watch.
In November 2020, Arians stated that Brown was on a strict "one strike and you're out" policy with the Buccaneers.
"He's been a model citizen," Arians told SiriusXM at the time. "If and when he's not, we'll move on. He knows that. Our team knows that. I don't really think we're going to have any problems. We haven't had any so far and I really would not anticipate any."
When Brown was first alleged to have asked for and received a fake vaccination card, Arians was indignant that not only was it untrue but that it had nothing to do with football.
"None whatsoever," Arians said. "We did our due diligence. The league will do theirs. The statement says everything. I really don't think it's a story, and it has nothing to do with the Giants game."
He further claimed the allegation was a non-story on the Rich Eisen Show.
"There is no story. Yeah, [Brown] says he's vaccinated and has a card, just like everybody else on our football team," Arians told Eisen. "There's a trust factor that goes along with it, and we did our due diligence on everybody. The league will look into the matter and do their due diligence, but it's really no story."
Arians now looks foolish for taking Brown at his word. The team's medical staff looks equally foolish for being duped by a fake vaccination card when the league investigation found not just one but three cards all to have been forged.
Comparisons have already started between Brown and Aaron Rodgers. There's a massive difference between the two situations. It seems most, if not all, of Rodgers' teammates and coaches knew he was unvaccinated. The league did as well. Rodgers, according to the league's investigation, adhered to the protocols for unvaccinated players a large majority of the time. He chose to be intentionally misleading when asked publicly so that he could avoid being asked more questions.
Brown lied to his teammates, his coaches and the team's medical staff. He went through the building and enjoyed the perks (at least in the NFL) of being considered a vaccinated individual. These two situations aren't even particularly similar.
Not to mention ... this is a federal offense. Jail time is unlikely, but a fine and/or probation is possible should the government decide to bring Brown up on charges. You could argue he's the highest-profile name in America to have been found using a fake vaccination card so far. According to the FBI's website, using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card is "unauthorized use of a government agency's seal" and a violation of federal law.
It would be difficult, from a football perspective, to release Brown. He has two 100-yard receiving games this season and looked to be returning to his old self before his ankle injury sidelined him in October. The Bucs, who are 5-0 this season with Brown in the lineup and 3-3 without, want to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and they'd have a better shot at doing that with Brown than without.
The Bucs also couldn't retain Brown while cutting safety Mike Edwards, who along with Brown and former Bucs receiver and current free agent John Franklin III, was found to have also used a fake vaccination card. Cutting Edwards and not releasing Brown would be a naked admission that Brown is too important to release no matter if he violated federal law, lied to his team and put teammates' health and safety at risk.
But at some point enough is enough. Several NFL teams had decided "enough" on Brown last season. The Bucs figured he was worth it, and on the field, he was.
Now his immaturity and selfishness have embarrassed another franchise, and there's only one way the Buccaneers should turn.