Antonio Brown is accused of using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card; Bucs WR attorney responds to claim

A former live chef for Antonio Brown is alleging the Buccaneers’ wide receiver obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card last summer to evade NFL protocols, Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday.

Steven Ruiz provided messages to the Times that appeared to show a conversation between Ruiz and Brown’s girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, asking if Ruiz could secure Johnson & Johnson’s vaccination card, and Moreau said in the message. that Brown would pay $500 for a card. Ruiz told the Times the rationale behind wanting Johnson & Johnson to be printed on the card was that it was a single photo and therefore wouldn’t require a lot of paperwork.

Ruiz said he was unable to defend the card, but Brown later let his chef know that he had obtained cards for both himself and Moreau before starting the Buccaneers training camp.

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

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“Antonio Brown appreciates the severity of the pandemic, that’s why he’s vaccinated and advocates for everyone to get vaccinated,” Burstyn told the Times. “Coronavirus hit near home when it took him out of a game. He’s healthy, vaccinated and ready to win another Super Bowl.

“One of the worst parts of the pandemic has been the movement to cast doubt on our country’s vaccination programs with baseless, hateful rumors.”

As reported by the Times, Brown and Ruiz failed because Brown owed him $10,000. The Times reported that Ruiz spoke publicly after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

Burstyn called Ruiz on November 8 to discuss a possible solution, according to the phone log that the Times said it provided. As reported by the Times, Burstyn asked Ruiz how much money he wanted, and Ruiz replied that he was only looking for what he assumed Brown owed him.

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As the Times reports, personal trainer and TB12 co-founder Alex Guerrero went to Brown’s home to work with him on his recovery from knee surgery. Guerrero took a picture of the vaccination card and sent it to head coach Bobby Slater to help document the players who were vaccinated. Ruiz told the Times he didn’t think Guerrero knew the card was fake.

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

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

Neither Brown nor a representative for Brown nor Guerrero responded to a request for comment from the Times.

NFL COVID-19 protocols

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

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

Brown tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the Buccaneers’ Week 3 game against the Rams. The Tampa Bay Times notes that Brown has been isolated for 10 days, the same length of time as the unvaccinated players. But the report did not specify whether Brown had symptoms or was unable to test negative twice in a row in a 24-hour period.

Brown has been sidelined since Week 6 with a leg injury, but he attended the press conference indoors without a mask on, which violates the rules for unvaccinated players.

In a recent example of a protocol violation, Aaron Rodgers fined $14,650 and Packers organization $300,000. Although Rodgers said he told the team he was unvaccinated, he conducted press conferences indoors without a mask and was found to have not worn a mask inside the facilities. of the team.

A fake vaccination tag will add an extra element. For starters, if the Buccaneers hadn’t known Brown had violated COVID protocol all season, they could have avoided fines from the league.

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Fake vaccine tags are said to be a problem in the NFL. According to the September report from Defector, an NFL representative said he expected that 10 to 15 percent of players would have fake vaccination cards.

An NFL spokesperson told Defector that teams are required to scrutinize the cards they are presented with and remind teams that the use of fake immunization cards is not only a health risk, but also a health risk. a federal crime.

“Any attempt by team staff or players to use fake cards or fake cards will be reviewed under the personal conduct policy and subject to disciplinary action against those individuals. In addition, it is a federal offense. No club has reported any such activity during the verification process,” a spokesperson told Defector.

Brown has had trouble with the league before. He has been suspended since the start of the 2020 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The suspension relates to an undisputed plea Brown made about the January 2020 theft and battery charge, as well as threatening messages he allegedly sent to a woman for has made unexpected strides towards her.

What is the federal penalty for using a fake immunization card?

As an NFL spokesperson told Defector, using fake immunization cards is a federal crime, which could land Brown in trouble outside of the league.

As reported by the Times, creating, using and/or selling fake immunization cards is a felony and can lead to fines and up to 5 years in prison.

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