The Times reported Thursday that, according to Steven Ruiz — a former personal chef for the wide receiver — Brown had his girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to Ruiz over the summer to obtain a fake vaccination card that said Brown had received the Johnson & Johnson shot. According to text messages provided by Ruiz, Moreau offered $500 for a fake card.
Ruiz said he was unable to acquire a fake card for Brown, according to the report, but that the wide receiver a few weeks later showed him ones he had for himself and Moreau that he said he had purchased.
Brown reportedly was unwilling to get the vaccine because of possible side effects. It is unclear if Brown later received a vaccination shot.
Responding to the Times story, the Buccaneers released a statement saying they had “received completed vaccination cards from all Tampa Bay Buccaneers players.”
“All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed,” the team said.
Brown’s lawyer, Sean Burstyn, denied Ruiz’s claims in a statement to the Times.
“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 the newspaper. “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.”
Moreau also told the Times that she did not know Ruiz and denied his accusation.
Brown missed the Buccaneers’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after testing positive for COVID-19 four days before the game. He was activated the following week but has since missed the past three games with an ankle injury.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement that the league was “aware of the report and have been in contact with the club. We will review the matter.” He previously told the Times that any attempt to use a fake vaccine card could be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Brown also could face legal issues if he used a fake card.
Ruiz said he went public with the accusation after Brown failed to pay $10,000 owed to him, according to the Times.