Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown is among three players suspended for violating the NFL-NFLPA's COVID-19 protocols.
The NFL confirmed Brown and teammate Mike Edwards, as well as free agent John Franklin III -- if signed to a club -- will all be ineligible for the next three games in a news release shared on its official communications website Thursday (December 2) afternoon.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported an investigation into allegations that Brown, Edwards and Franklin all misrepresented their vaccination statuses under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols proved to be conclusive.
The NFL's full statement is included below via NFLCommunications.com:
"The National Football League announced today discipline of three players for violating jointly developed and administered NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols.
"Tampa Bay's Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards have each been suspended without pay for the next three games. Free agent John Franklin III, if signed by a club, is also ineligible to play in the next three games. All three players have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately.
"The NFLPA represented the three players during a joint NFL-NFLPA review into the recent allegations that players misrepresented their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols. That review supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols.
"The NFL and 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."
Rapoport reports Brown and Edwards both accepted the discipline handed down by the NFL and waived their right to appeal their respective punishments.
Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported Brown's girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, told Los Angeles chef Steven Ruiz that the wide receiver was willing to pay $500 for a Johnson & Johnson vaccination card in a text message sent on July 2.
“Can you get the COVID cards?” Moreau texted Ruiz on July 2, according to a screen grab he sent to the Tampa Bay Times prior to publication on November 18.
“I can try,” Ruiz responded.
“JNJ shot. Ab said he would give you $500,” Moreau texted back.
The Tampa Bay Times noted that the text exchange didn't refer to Brown by his full name, rather his initials, which have served as a commonly used nickname among friends, coaches, teammates and fans.
Brown has appeared in five games for the Buccaneers this season and has 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns.
The seven-time Pro Bowler was initially placed on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list in September and missed Tampa Bay's Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Brown won his first Super Bowl with the Buccaneers after signing with the franchise midway through the 2020 season and re-signed as part of a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a $2 million signing bonus and $3.1 million guaranteed this past offseason, despite undergoing off-season knee surgery.