News Outlets Reporting Antonio Brown & Two Others Falsified Vaccination Cards. Doing So May Be A Federal Crime.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Today the NFL suspended two Buccaneers players, Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards and free agent John Franklin III for misrepresenting their vaccination status.

Mark Maske, a NFL Reporter for The Washington Post is claiming on Twitter that a source said that all three had submitted fake vaccination cards but all three are now vaccinated.

Sports Illustrated is now reporting that all three players allegedly “produced vaccination cards purportedly from Citrus County.” Citrus is an hour and a half from Tampa and none of the players have a connection to the rural area. The fact that they all produced the same cards from the same suspicious small area reportedly led to the league’s looking into each player’s status and allegedly uncovering the fake cards.

Antonio Brown’s attorney denied that Brown falsified his vaccination card but said Brown did not want to indulge the time and distraction of challenging the suspension.

But outside of the fact that submitting fake vaccine cards to the Bucs or the NFL violates its health and safety protocols, there are more serious repercussions to wonder about.

The NFL investigation followed a Tampa Bay Times report from Brown’s former live-in chef who claimed Brown’s girlfriend asked him to get Brown a fake vaccine card in exchange for $500. The chef claims that Brown allegedly ended up acquiring one on his own. Later, Pro Football Network Reporter Adam Beasley reporter that a league source said Brown had offered to put other players in touch with his alleged fake vaccine card supplier. Brown’s attorney denied all of these allegations.

However, the league investigation found otherwise and ruled that not only did Brown misrepresent his vaccine status but his teammate Mike Edwards did too.

It is not clear whether Brown allegedly helped Edwards as rumored by Beasley’s tweet saying Brown was allegedly offering to help other players get fake cards. However, falsifying and distributing fake vaccination cards is against federal law.

The broader concern is that Brown is a high-profile figure and the allegations in the Tampa Bay Times made national news and led to a league investigation with a finding of fault.

On a broader scale, falsifying vaccine cards and records, violates various federal and state laws and is subject to civil and criminal penalties.

According to the FBI, the unauthorized use of a government agency’s official seal (as is found on a real vaccine card) is a crime under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017.

A person caught with a fake COVID-19 vaccine card could face up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine according to the Department of Justice.

“The creation, purchase, or sale of vaccine cards by individuals is illegal and endangers public safety,” the FBI states. “Do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information.”

There are also various states that have outlawed the falsification of vaccine cards and in Florida there is legislation that would make it a third degree felony if passed.

The issue is that if a federal agency contacts the NFL, the league will have to hand over the evidence and findings it has uncovered. Furthermore, whether or not the feds decide to investigate the players, they will most certainly want to know who their supplier was, if in fact they did receive fake vaccination cards from someone. Cutting down on the source of supply of the unlawful distribution of anything that violates the law is always a priority for the feds. Oftentimes the feds will cut deals with people, even when they are a part of a larger scheme, if they cooperate and lead the feds to the source of the unlawful activity. It would be surprising if the feds did not investigate this to find out who is supplying people with fake cards, because chances are that person is not just giving them to NFL players.

We also know the feds love high-profile cases. Don’t be surprised if they decide to investigate the use of fake vaccine cards across the league to see if it’s a widespread practice among even more NFL players. With today’s findings and suspensions, Vaxgate is now a new league reality and it makes Aaron Rodger’s misleading statements seem like small potatoes.