Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown has been long overdue to do something stupid.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Brown’s former live-in chef claims that Brown sought and secured a fake COVID vaccination card.
Steven Ruiz is sharing his story apparently because he claims that Brown, who has a history of not paying his bills, owes Ruiz $10,000.
Ruiz has text messages from early July that purport to reflect an effort by Brown through his girlfriend, Cydney Moreau, to secure fake vaccination cards for $500. Ruiz said he wasn’t able to find a fake vaccination card, and that Brown showed Ruiz fake vaccination cards Brown had purchased a few weeks later. Ruiz claims he saw the fake vaccination cards just days before the start of Buccaneers training camp.
That same night, Alex Guerrero (the same Alex Guerrero as the one who developed the TB12 method with Tom Brady) showed up at Brown’s house to photograph Brown’s vaccination card, per Ruiz. Guerrero, as explained by Stroud, periodically served as the person who would photograph vaccination cards to be sent to Buccaneers trainer Bobby Slater. Via Stroud, Ruiz said he believes Guerrero didn’t know the card was fake.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Stroud that teams are responsible for verifying personnel and player vaccination status. The use of a fake vaccination card by a player, per McCarthy, would be reviewed under the Personal Conduct Policy. Brown would be regarded as a repeat offender; last year, he was suspended eight games under the policy for multiple off-field incidents.
Brown tested positive for COVID early in the season. He missed the Week Three contest against the Rams because of it, and was absent from the team for a full 10 days.
The Buccaneers and Brown’s agent declined to comment for Stroud’s story. Also, McCarthy didn’t specifically say that the league is investigating Brown or the Buccaneers.
This weird story now gets weirder. Instead of hiring a lawyer to get the $10,000 that Brown allegedly owes Ruiz, Ruiz reached out to “Hollywood fixer” Kevin Blatt. Per Stroud, Blatt called Buccaneers chief legal officer Dan Malasky on October 18 and told him that the Buccaneers have an issue with fake vaccination cards.
Blatt insisted to Stroud that Blatt didn’t request payment to make the story go away, acknowledging that would be extortion. It’s unclear what Blatt wanted, however, from the Buccaneers, if not money for Ruiz in exchange for Ruiz keeping quiet. Regardless, the call put the Buccaneers on notice that they may have an issue with fake vaccination cards. The NFL surely will be interested in knowing what, if anything, they did next.
On November 8, Brown’s lawyer contacted Ruiz in an effort to resolve the dispute. Ruiz said he wanted the money he was owed. Ruiz never heard back from Burstyn and, 10 days later, here we are.
Where we go from here will surely be interesting.