Steven Ruiz, the ex live-in chef went public with his claim that Antonio Brown obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccine card. On Thursday, Ruiz claimed that he was owed $10,000 in unpaid wages and said Brown had received a fake vaccine card. Friday, Ruiz threw more gasoline on the fire, telling ESPN that Brown obtained the fake vaccine card from an unnamed Buccaneers teammate.
According to Steven Ruiz, Brown had his girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to Ruiz over the summer to obtain a fake vaccination card that said Brown had received the Johnson & Johnson shot. Ruiz also provided a screenshot of text messages to the Tampa Bay Times with Cydney offering to pay him $500 for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine card on Brown’s behalf.
Ruiz provided a screengrab to the Tampa Bay Times of text messages with Brown’s girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, in which she offered to pay him $500 for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine card on Brown’s behalf. An attorney for Brown denied the allegations.
The first thing for the league to do will be to talk to Steven Ruiz, the former live-in chef who went public with his contention that Brown secured a fake card. Because it’s clear that Ruiz is willing to talk.
After speaking to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Ruiz has provided more details to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com.
“He got them from another player who was selling them,” Ruiz told Laine regarding Antonio Brown. “That player came over to the house multiple times. He had to get another copy of [Brown’s girlfriend, Cydney Moreau’s] vaccine card because they got her birthday wrong on the first one.”
Ruiz declined to name the player to Laine. If the league comes calling, perhaps Ruiz will share the name with Lisa Friel and/or someone from her staff.
The league said it will review the matter. The dilemma for the league is clear. If it aggressively probes the issue of fake vaccination cards and finds a deeper issue about which the league or its teams knew or should have known, the league will come off as inept or deliberately indifferent about the temptation to use fake cards and the public-health risks arising from them.
If the league engages in a half-hearted probe and finds no wrongdoing or (more likely) never says anything more about it as more and more bright, shiny objects appear (a/k/a football games are played), it risks criticism for not taking the situation seriously.
So far, the vibe is that the league isn’t taking it as seriously as it should. Rumors of fake vaccination cards have circulated for months. Multiple media outlets have been investigating the situation.
The NFL surely has caught wind of the talk, undoubtedly is aware of the ease with which cards can be faked. The absence of a loud and clear statement from the league (like the one that was issued after the Jon Gruden emails came to light) regarding the potential use of fake vaccination cards and its intention to engage in a full audit of all vaccination cards to smoke out any counterfeits suggests that the league will be looking to run out the clock and move on.
Like it did with the Washington Football Team investigation back in June. Like it surely is doing with the Congressional probe sparked by the leak of the Gruden emails. Like it does every week with multiple bad officiating calls, ignoring the situation in the hopes of minimizing it.