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Tampa Bay's Antonio Brown suspended for 3 games for faking vaccination status, NFL says

The league suspended two other players who it said also "misrepresented" their statuses.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown was suspended for three games Thursday for violating the league’s Covid-19 protocols and misrepresenting his vaccination status, the NFL said.

Two other players were also suspended.

Brown and Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards were suspended without pay for the next three games, the NFL said in a statement. Free agent John Franklin III, if he is signed by the team, is also ineligible to play in the following three games.

The players have “accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal,” the NFL said, adding, “The suspensions are effective immediately.”

The athletes were represented by the players’ union, the NFL Players Association, which conducted the joint review with the NFL into the allegations that they “misrepresented their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols,” the statement said, adding, “That review supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols.”

The NFL and the NFLPA said in a joint statement: “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-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.”

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said his client has been vaccinated.

"Mr. Brown is vaccinated and continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate," Burstyn said Thursday after the suspension. "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."

Brown has been out for several weeks with an ankle injury.

The NFL said last month that it was looking into a report that Brown obtained a fake Covid-19 vaccination card to evade league protocols.

“We are aware of the report and have been in contact with the club,” an NFL spokesperson said. “We will review the matter.” 

Burstyn denied the claims last month.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Brown’s vaccination status was questioned after the Green Bay Packers were fined $300,000 for Covid protocol violations. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard were also fined $14,650 each for attending a Halloween party unvaccinated.

Brown's off-the-field behavior has made headlines in recent years.

In January 2020, he was accused of attacking a truck driver in front of his home in Hollywood, Florida. He was charged with burglary with assault, burglary conveyance and criminal mischief. Brown pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years' probation. He was also ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and to attend an anger management course.

Brown was also accused of sexual assault by his former trainer Britney Taylor in a lawsuit filed in 2019. Brown denied the allegations and countersued Taylor; a settlement was reached in April.