The Tampa Bay Buccaneers said Thursday that the team received COVID-19 vaccination cards from all of their players and that “no irregularities were observed,” following reports that wide receiver Antonio Brown had obtained a fake vaccination card.
Brown’s former live-in chef, Steven Ruiz, provided a text message exchange between himself and Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, to The Tampa Bay Times this week that appeared to show Brown trying to acquire a fake vaccination card.
The alleged exchange shows Moreau stating that “AB” was willing to pay $500 if Ruiz could get a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card. While the text exchange between Moreau and Ruiz does not explicitly refer to NFL player Brown by name, the wide receiver is often called A.B. by those in his inner circle.
In a statement published on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said that every vaccination card it received had been reviewed by team personnel and that they had not found any irregularities.
“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,” the Buccaneers said. “All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed.”
The NFL also released the following statement on the Brown report: “We are aware of the report and have been in contact with the club. We will review the matter.”
Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, told The Times on Thursday that Brown is vaccinated against COVID-19.
“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,” Burstyn said in a text message to the publication. “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. 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.”
Burstyn added to The Epoch Times: “There’s a big hole in all of these stories. Each of them lacks any evidence of Mr. Brown obtaining a fake vaccination card. We all know that the ‘source’ is willing to record information, go into people’s homes, and share a narrative about what he claims to have seen. If he had evidence of a transaction, he would have spilled the beans about that too. The fact is Mr. Brown advised me that he was in fact vaccinated.”
Brown’s former chief alleges that the NFL player wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine card because it is the only one that requires a single shot and would involve less paperwork, per The Times. The former chief said that Brown was concerned about the vaccine’s potentially negative effects on his body.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that COVID-19 vaccines are “safe and effective” and have undergone intensive safety monitoring.
While Ruiz told the Times that he was unable to obtain a fake vaccination card for Brown back in July, he claims that Brown showed him fake vaccination cards a few weeks later that he had purchased for himself and his girlfriend.
Ruiz told the Times that Tom Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, provided treatment for Brown following knee surgery and photographed his vaccine card to provide to the team’s head trainer, Bobby Slater. Ruiz said did not believe that Guerrero was aware the card was fake.
Ruiz also claims that 33-year-old Brown owes him $10,000 and that he and Brown have fallen out over the uncollected debt.
Brown tested positive for COVID-19 in September, prompting him to miss the Buccaneers’ game against the Rams. At the time, ESPN referred to him as being fully vaccinated, while Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told reporters before the start of the 2021 NFL season that his team, including “all the player, all the coaches, everybody” was “100 percent vaccinated.”
Back in May, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud, including the use of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, which is a federal criminal offense.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from Brown’s lawyer.