NFL Reviewing Claim That Tampa Bay Bucs Player Antonio Brown Obtained Fake COVID Vax Card

The NFL said it is looking into a claim that Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown allegedly obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to avoid league protocols, the Associated Press reported.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday that Brown's former live-in chef, Steven Ruiz, told the newspaper that Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Ruiz provided a screenshot of a July 2 text message exchange with Brown's girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, that Brown was willing to pay $500 if Ruiz could get a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card for him.

NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said the league was made aware of the report and had been in contact with the Bucs.

"We will review the matter," McCarthy said.

Ruiz alleged that Brown wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine card because the single shot would require less paperwork than other vaccines, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The Los Angeles chef, who also claimed Brown owes him an uncollected debt of $10,000, told the newspaper he was unable to find a vaccination card for Brown.

Ruiz said that a few weeks later, he saw two vaccination cards on a dining room table. Brown told him they were purchased for him and his girlfriend.

The Buccaneers announced shortly before the start of the regular season that their entire roster and coaching staff were fully vaccinated.

Any attempt by team personnel or players to use a forged or fake card is subject to review under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Antonio Brown, NFL
The NFL said it is looking into a claim that Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown allegedly obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Above, Brown during a game against the Eagles on October 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The topic of using a fake card was raised by the league on July 22 as part of a string of 32 club video-conference COVID-19 meetings conducted prior to training camp.

Teams were instructed to scrutinize cards when presented because the use of a fake card risks the health and safety of the entire club, is a federal criminal offense and would subject the individual to possible league discipline.

No club has reported any issues during the verification process. In many instances, personnel, players and their family members were administered shots at club facilities.

Clubs are responsible for verifying personnel and player vaccination status, with individuals required to present their vaccination cards to team medical staff for verification.

The reigning Super Bowl champions released a one-paragraph statement in response to the newspaper report.

"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 statement read. "All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed."

Brown, who did not practice Thursday, has been sidelined the past month with an ankle injury. He also missed one game in September (a road loss to the Los Angeles Rams) after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tampa Bay is 5-0 in games Brown has played this season, 1-3 in those he's missed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Antonio Brown, NFL
The NFL said it is looking into a claim that Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown allegedly obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Above, Brown (right) talks to teammate Chris Godwin prior to a game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images