Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused by his former live-in chef of obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, Steven Ruiz (the chef) claims he received a text message from Brown's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, in early July that indicated Brown was willing to pay $500 for a forged Johnson & Johnson vaccination card.
The Times was provided a screenshot of the alleged text message conversation between Ruiz and Moreau. The exchange was as follows:
Moreau: "Can you get the COVID cards?"
Ruiz: "I can try."
Moreau: "JNJ shot. AB said he would give you $500."
Ruiz told the Times he was unable to obtain the fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, but that when he visited Brown's home a few weeks later, Brown showed him fake cards he had obtained elsewhere. Ruiz stated that Brown had told people around him that he was worried about negative effects from the vaccine on his body.
Brown's attorney, Sean Burstyn, issued a statement denying the allegations. "Be like Antonio Brown and get the vaccine," Burstyn said, per NFL.com. The Buccaneers also issued a statement addressing the issue.
After an extensive educational process conducted throughout our organization this past offseason highlighting the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, we received completed vaccination cards from all Tampa Bay Buccaneers players and submitted the required information to the NFL through the established process in accordance with league policy. All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed.
CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson reported that there is a feeling within the Buccaneers that the allegation is financially motivated. "This whole thing is about getting paid" a source told Anderson. "No evidence."
According to the Times, Ruiz said he spoke about this issue now because he is owed $10,000 by the receiver, which he has been unable to obtain after settlement negotiations with Brown's lawyers were unproductive. Brown, who has been out since Week 6 with a foot injury, did not respond to a request from the Times for comment, and the team did not make him available either, per the report.
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."
If Brown is found to have forged a COVID-19 vaccination card, there will almost surely be serious consequences personally, professionally, and financially. The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers were each fined after Rodgers was found to have violated the league's COVID-19 protocols, and the same would presumably be true for Brown and the Bucs. In October, the NHL player Evander Kane was suspended for 21 games for falsifying a vaccination card.
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