Buccaneers' Antonio Brown, Mike Edwards Suspended Over 'Misrepresenting' Vaccination Status

The National Football League (NFL) announced Thursday that it had suspended two Tampa Bay Buccaneers players, wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards, for misrepresenting their COVID-19 vaccination statuses.

The suspensions will be without pay and will last for three games.

Additionally suspended was a free agent player, John Franklin III, who will also be ineligible for three games if he were to be signed by a team.

In a statement, the NFL said that they had conducted a review into the "recent allegations that players misrepresented their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols."

"That review supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols," the statement continued.

Antonio Brown
The NFL has suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown for misrepresenting his COVID vaccination status. Here, Brown can be seen during a game between the Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Leff/Getty

The league, which has the final say on player suspensions, reiterated that "the health and safety of our players is our top priority. The protocols were jointly developed...to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic."

"The NFL-NFLPA...further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL."

This is believed to be the first time that the NFL and the NFL Players' Association have released a disciplinary statement related to COVID-19, according to ESPN.

The NFL's statement did not detail specifics of the two players' conduct. However, recent reports stated that Brown, 33, had allegedly been disciplined for creating or obtaining a fake COVID vaccination card.

In a separate statement, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers responded to the suspensions, stating that they "appreciate the League's timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established."

"We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols," the Buccaneers stated, while also confirming that both players had accepted their suspensions and would not be appealing.

A lawyer for Brown, Sean Burstyn, did not comment on the allegations of misrepresentation, but did state that his client "is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate."

"The NFL made its determination and...[Brown] will make the most of this time by treating his ankle injury," Burstyn added. Brown's injury had kept him out of the lineup since the sixth week of the season.

A statement on behalf of Edwards, 25, has not been released.

Both men would be eligible to return to the gridiron on December 26, during Tampa Bay's game against the Carolina Panthers.

The news comes just one month after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers contracted COVID-19 after violating numerous league protocols.

Rodgers was fined $14,650 for the protocol violations, an amount that many people viewed as insufficient given the scale of NFL contacts. He later admitted that he had been misleading in telling people he was 'immunized' when asked if he had gotten vaccinated, comments that led to significant backlash.

Green Bay's quarterback ended up missing ten days under the league's quarantine guidelines.

Newsweek has reached out to the NFL's Player Health & Safety department for comment.

Update 12/02/2021, 5:15 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.