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NFL suspends Bucs' Antonio Brown for lying about vaccine status

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and two other players have been suspended three games without pay by the league for misrepresenting their vaccination statuses. 

Brown was previously accused by his personal chef of attempting to pay for a fake COVID-19 vaccine card prior to the season in an effort to skirt the NFL's rules for unvaccinated players. 

Along with Brown, one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets, two other players were suspended three games without pay: Bucs safety Mike Edwards and free agent receiver John Franklin III, who was released by Tampa Bay earlier this year.   

All three suspensions are effective immediately and the players have waived their right to appeal.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown was suspended three games without pay on Thursday for misrepresenting his vaccine status

Brown's Tampa Bay teammate, safety Mike Edwards (left), and free agent John Franklin III (right), a former Buccaneers receiver, were also suspended three games apiece. Franklin can only be forced to serve that suspension if a team signs him

Brown, Edwards, and Franklin were all represented by the NFL Players Association to review the recent allegations, which were not specified in the NFL's press release, other than to say they misrepresented 'their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols.'

A subsequent review supported the allegations.

'The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority,' the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement. '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 was allegedly interested in paying his personal chef $500 for a fake COVID-19 vaccination card so he could avoid the league's rules for unvaccinated players.

Brown's model girlfriend Cydney Moreau allegedly texted Los Angeles-based chef Steven Ruiz asking for a fake card - a violation of federal law - on July 2

'Can you get the COVID cards?' Moreau asked. 

'I can try,' Ruiz replied.

'JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500,' Moreau added, expressing preference for a card claiming that Brown got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Ruiz provided the text exchange to the Tampa Bay Times, which verified the phone numbers, after he fell out with the NFL player over an unpaid $10,000 debt.

The Bucs said Brown's card passed muster and doesn't have any irregularities.

'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,' read the Bucs' November statement. 'All vaccination cards were reviewed by Buccaneers personnel and no irregularities were observed.'