Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been through a lot of drama in his NFL career. However, his latest accusation is one that could make for a legal fight of a federal nature.
According to reports, “AB” has been accused by his former live-in chef Steven Ruiz of attempting to obtain a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 18, 2021
Ruiz owns TasteThatLA and formerly worked at Gordon Ramsay’s in West Hollywood for seven years. Now he is a personal chef.
Fraudulent Vaccine Request?
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Ruiz claims Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, told the Los Angeles chef in a text message on July 2 that Mr. “Whole Lotta Money” would pay him $500 to secure him a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card.
The Times claims to have a screenshot provided by the chef of texts between Moreau and himself.
“Can you get the COVID cards?” Moreau texted Ruiz.
“I can try,” Ruiz responded.
“JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500,” Moreau texted back.
According to Ruiz, as reported by The Times, Brown sought the fraudulent documentation for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because, with it being a one-dose vaccination, it would require less paperwork.
Ruiz claimed that Brown had concerns about the vaccine.
However, Ruiz told the Times that weeks after not being able to obtain the cards, Brown showed him fake vaccination cards he had procured. He claimed Brown told him he’d purchased cards for himself and Moreau.
Reportedly, Brown and Ruiz had a falling out over an unpaid debt of $10,000. As a result, Ruiz chose to out Brown and Moreau, which created a firestorm for the receiver.
antonio brown's vax card: pic.twitter.com/svsIDpuQTG
— sean yoo (@SeanYoo) November 18, 2021
FS1’s talking head Shannon Sharpe didn’t wake up feeling good about AB, who has been the consumate teammate since joining the Tampa Bay Bucs, becoming Tom Brady’s main weapon and winning a Super Bowl.
Sharpe says the NFL needs to do a full investigation, even after the Bucs organization said “No irregularities were observed” with Brown’s vaccination card.
“The NFL’s got to get to the bottom of this in a hurry,” Sharpe said on Undisputed. This is an all-time big lie. This is a lie of epic porportions. This is along the lines of Aaron Rodgers. The only thing with Aaron Rodgers — if this is true — he didn’t go through the lengths that AB went trhough.”
However, according to Brown’s lawyer, Sean Burstyn, Brown is 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,” Burstyn texted to The Times. “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.”
Brown was one of a few Tampa Bay players to test positive for COVID-19 this season. He missed the Week 3 game where the Bucs took on the Los Angeles Rams — losing that game— in Los Angeles.
The Bucc Stops Here
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also released a statement on Thursday.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 18, 2021
“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.”
The NFL has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases recently. According to reports, between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, the NFL had 81 confirmed positive cases.
The NFL’s COVID Problem
Thirty-four players and 47 staff were confirmed positive, which were the most during any two weeks this NFL season, according to The New York Times.
“That wasn’t a total surprise to us because our numbers mirror the number of cases in the country,” said NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills to The New York Times.
If Brown did turn in a fake vaccine card, it would violate the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Additionally, falsifying a government seal is a federal crime; the vaccine cards have the CDC and HHS seals.
AB Being AB?
Forging those is a felony under Title 18 of the US Code, Section 10-17. That violation could carry a fine and a maximum of five years in prison.
Antonio Brown to NFL officials pic.twitter.com/AKdYBziMVz
— Pardon My Take (@PardonMyTake) November 18, 2021
Before winning a Super Bowl last year, Brown had an incident over a billing dispute early in 2020. In response, the league suspended Brown for the first eight games of the 2020 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Already pre-labeled as a bad boy of the NFL, this allegation does not help his brand.