NFL suspends Antonio Brown, two others for lying about vaccine status

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Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball against Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mitchell Leff | Getty Images

The NFL said Thursday that it had suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and two other players for three games without pay for lying about their Covid-19 vaccination status.

Brown, Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards and free agent John Franklin III all accepted their discipline and waived their right of appeal after a probe in which they were represented by the players’ union, the NFL said in a statement. 

“That review supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols,” the NFL said.

The NFL did not provide additional details on the probe.

Brown’s vaccination status was first questioned last month when the Tampa Bay Times alleged he had paid for fake coronavirus vaccine cards before training camp.

“The health and safety of players and personnel is our top priority,” the NFL and NFL Players Association said in a joint statement Thursday.

“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.”

The Buccaneers said Thursday that it will continue to implement all NFL-NFLPA Covid-19 protocols 

“We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established,” the team said in a statement Thursday. 

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a statement obtained by the NFL on Thursday that 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 make this most of this time by treating his ankle injury,” Burstyn said, according to the NFL.

“Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16.”

Last month, the NFL also fined the Green Bay Packers and their quarterback Aaron Rodgers after an investigation that found he violated Covid-19 protocols. The team was fined $300,000 and warned that violations in the future could result in loss of draft picks. 

Rodgers and Packers wide out Allen Lazard were each fined $14,650 for attending a party while unvaccinated. 

Rodgers also faced sharp criticism after it was revealed that he is not vaccinated and tested positive for Covid-19 despite telling reporters months earlier that he is “immunized.” Rodgers said his team was aware of his vaccination status.

He called the NFL’s Covid protocols a “witch hunt.”

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