NFL suspends Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown, two others for misrepresenting vax status

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Antonio Brown, star wide receiver for the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with teammate Mike Edwards and free-agent wide receiver John Franklin III, have been suspended for three games for misrepresenting their COVID-19 vaccination status. The players violated the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols, according to the NFL.

Franklin was waived by Tampa Bay in August, and Edwards is a back up safety for the team. Brown has been out the last five games recovering from an ankle injury and was expected to miss at least two more games.

“The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority. The protocols were jointly developed working with our respective experts to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. “The NFL and NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL.”

The NFL said all three players accepted their discipline and will not appeal the decision.

“Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate,” Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn said in a statement. “The NFL made its determination and, instead of going through the drawn out and distracting process of challenging the outcome, Mr. Brown wrapped this up promptly and he will make this [sic] most of this time by treating his ankle injury. Mr. Brown will be motivated, well-rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16.”

Brown’s former personal chef, Steven Ruiz, accused the player of acquiring a fake Covid vaccine card last month, saying Brown purchased a fake card from another player over the summer, according to the left leaning sports network ESPN. Ruiz said Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to him on the athlete’s behalf about obtaining a fake vaccination card, and while he was unable to acquire a fake card, the chef said Brown showed him cards he had allegedly purchased from an unnamed teammate for himself and Moreau — Burstyn denied that his client had obtained a fake vaccine card.

Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was fined last month by the NFL after it was reported that despite saying publicly that he was “inoculated,” that the player was in fact not vaccinated. According to various reports, Rodgers received a $14,650 fine for attending a Halloween party, which was a violation of the COVID-19 protocols established by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The Packers were reportedly issued a $300,000 fine, as well.

Brown’s penalty was immediately compared to Rodgers situation by many, and while the NFL under Commissioner Roger Goodell, is infamous for its inconsistency in administering discipline — just ask the Dallas Cowboys, who always seem to find themselves on the stiffer end of that scale — Brown is accused of misrepresenting his vaccine status, and the NFL and Green Bay knew that Rodgers wasn’t vaccinated. The league developed strict guidelines for those players who are unvaccinated, but stopped short of a mandate.

“I have followed every single protocol to a T, minus the one I just mentioned, which makes absolutely no sense to me,” Rodgers said in response to the claims he didn’t follow protocols for unvaccinated players, according to ESPN.

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