NFL Suspends Antonio Brown and 2 Others for Misrepresenting COVID Vaccination Status
Antonio Brown, receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been handed a three-game suspension from the NFL for allegedly misrepresenting his COVID vaccination status, the League announced on Thursday.
Tampa Bay player Mike Edwards and free agent John Franklin III were also suspended for three games for not following NFL protocols regarding their vaccination status.
"The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority. The protocols were jointly developed working with our respective experts to ensure that we are practicing and playing football as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic," the NFL and National Football League Players Association said in a joint statement on Thursday. "The NFL-NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL."
Tampa Bay also released a statement about the matter, which was posted to their Twitter account on Thursday, saying 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.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Brown's lawyer Sean Burstyn said, "Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate. The NFL made its determination and, instead of going through the drawn out and distracting process of challenging the outcome, Mr. Brown wrapped this up promptly and he will use this time as an opportunity to treat his ankle injury. Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16."
In November, a spokesperson for the Buccaneers told PEOPLE that they were investigating a report made by Brown's former live-in chef, who told the Tampa Bay Times Brown allegedly said that he had purchased a fake vaccination card because he was worried about the effects the vaccine may have on his body.
"We are aware of the report and have been in contact with the club. We will review the matter," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement to PEOPLE at the time.
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Although the NFL does not currently require its players to be vaccinated against COVID, specific mandates vary from teams and venues depending on city and state laws.
Brown's lawyer previously maintained that the Tampa Bay star is fully vaccinated.
"Mr. Brown confirmed to me that he was vaccinated and, if a booster eventually becomes advisable, he'll be happy to air it live on TV," Burstyn told PEOPLE last month. "He is happy to turn this into an opportunity to advocate for the safety of vaccines, and finds it a bit confusing that the source of this story would admit to attempting to procure and resell fake vaccination cards."
In a previous statement to PEOPLE, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also maintained that they had "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 statement concluded.
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