According to his former live-in chef, Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown acquired a forged COVID-19 vaccination card in order to circumvent NFL rules and regulations.
A text message from Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, to Los Angeles chef Steven Ruiz on July 2 said Brown was prepared to pay $500 if the chef could obtain a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card for her boyfriend.
“Can you get the COVID cards?” Moreau texted Ruiz on July 2, according to a screenshot Moreau provided to the Tampa Bay Times.
“I can try,” Ruiz replied.
Moreau continued, “JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500″.
In the text discussion between Moreau and Ruiz, Brown is not specifically mentioned by name. A.B. is a nickname given to the wide receiver by his friends, coaches, and teammates.
It was alleged by Ruiz that Brown desired the Johnson & Johnson vaccination card since it is the only vaccine that is comprised of a single shot and would require less documentation.
Allegedly, the relationship between Brown and Ruiz turned sour over an unpaid debt Ruiz, the owner of Taste ThatLA, claims that he is owed $10,000. Ruiz felt he was forced to publicly voice his aggressions towards Brown after his talks with Brown’s lawyer went nowhere.
Ruiz told Brown he was unable to obtain a false vaccination card for Brown in July. Brown allegedly told individuals around him that he was concerned about the vaccine’s possible harmful effects on his body at the time. Weeks later, Ruiz claimed Brown showed him his fake vaccinations cards that Brown purchased for himself and girlfriend. Ruiz says that interaction happened in Brown’s dining room a few days before the Bucs training camp was to begin.
While a personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, was at the Brown residence helping Brown recover from his knee surgery, Guerrero took a photo of Brown’s vaccination card.
In order to document the list of vaccinated players as promptly as possible, the Buccaneers would occasionally have Guerrero or others in the organization photograph the cards, which would then be sent to head trainer Bobby Slater and finally to their infection control officer.
Ruiz believes Guerrero was not aware that the card was a fake when he took the photo.
Guerrero did not respond to a request for comment from the Tampa Bay Times.
Brown’s immunization status is definitely doubted to be true due to Ruiz’s bombshell story.
Brown’s attorney, on the other hand, definitively said in a statement to the New York Times on Thursday afternoon that Brown had been vaccinated.
“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,” Sean Burstyn texted. “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 continued defended Brown, saying, “One of the worst parts of the pandemic has been a movement to cast doubt on our country’s vaccination programs with baseless, vindictive tabloid gossip.”
The Buccaneers refused to make Brown available for an interview with the New York Times. Officials from the Buccaneers and Brown’s agent have offered no comments on the story. In addition, Brown did not reply to messages left on his mobile phone over the course of the investigation.
According to Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, individual teams are responsible for confirming the immunization status of their employees and players. Players are expected to hand over their cards to the club’s medical staff or the infection control officer when requested. Any effort by team employees or players to use a forged card would be evaluated under the terms of the personal conduct policy, and the individual involved might face disciplinary action as a result. In addition, the creation, use, and/or sale of such cards is a crime punishable by penalties of up to five years in jail.
Brown, who was involved in a violent physical encounter following a bill dispute early last year, has already been the target of recent NFL investigation. His suspension for the first eight games of the 2020 season was imposed by the league for several infractions of the league’s personal rules and policies.
Six days before the Buccaneers’ season-opening game on Sept. 9, coach Bruce Arians proudly stated that his club had been “100 percent vaccinated,” which included “every player, coach, and staff member.”
During the course of the season, Brown became one of just a few Tampa Bay players to contract COVID-19, and he was forced to miss one game as a result – the Bucs’ Week 3 game in Los Angeles against the Rams.
Asymptomatic players who have received the vaccine and have passed two COVID-19 tests within 24 hours can return to work. Brown, on the other hand, was subjected to the same 10-day suspension that is imposed on unvaccinated athletes that test positive for the virus.
According to an agreement reached between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, unvaccinated players must adhere to a lengthy list of severe rules imposed by the league, which include social distance and wearing a mask at all times. One of the many rules includes one that mandates the weight room capacity to be 15 players or less.
The NFL does not hold back when it comes to punishing clubs and players who fail to adhere to COVID regulations. The Green Bay Packers were fined $300,000 on November 9 for failing to enforce league regulations with regard to its players. Two Green Bay Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, were fined $14,650 each for not getting their COVID shots.