NFL stories need developments like a fire needs oxygen. Over the weekend, the Antonio Brown fake vaccination card story ended up getting a sustained blast of the thick white cloud of an extinguisher.
With the NFL making it known on Thursday that it will review the matter, the Sunday Splash! circuit would have provided a prime platform for making it known that Brown did — or didn’t — submit a fake vaccination card and, in turn, pretend to be vaccinated when he was not. Instead, there were no developments announced or leaked regarding the NFL’s investigation.
The message seems clear. They want this one to go away. They don’t want to address it, one way or the other. Possibly, they suspect that the story is true; otherwise, they’d shut it down by announcing that the card was real. And if they suspect (or know) that it’s fake, they also know that it will be very difficult to hammer Brown or the Buccaneers without further exploring a rabbit hole that may be far deeper and more ugly than the league wants anyone to know.
The temptation for players who: (1) don’t want to be vaccinated; and (2) want to be treated like they’re vaccinated has been obvious from the get go. Frankly, it’s respectable that players like Cole Beasley, Carson Wentz, and Kirk Cousins owned their status instead of lying about it, publicly or privately.
If Brown had a fake card, he’s likely not the only one on the Buccaneers who did. And the Buccaneers surely aren’t the only team to have one or more players with fake vaccination cards.
The most significant Sunday nugget regarding Brown came from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. He said that, as to one of the other players accused by Brown’s former chef of using a fake card, the team witnessed that player’s vaccination at the facility.
This hardly means that Brown didn’t procure or use a fake card. It means, at most, that Steven Ruiz was wrong about one of his claims. It doesn’t automatically make him wrong as to the others.
As to Brown, either his card is legitimate or it isn’t. If the league truly wanted to know the answer to this simply yes or no question, it would already have it. And someone — Schefty or Glazer or one of the various members of the NFL Media army — would have declared it on Sunday.
In this case, silence invites speculation that the league wants nothing to do with any of it, because the league realizes that nothing good comes from taking a baby step onto a slippery slope that potentially concludes with a determination that enough players had fake cards to suggest that the NFL and its teams were either complacent or incompetent when it comes to confirming the validity of vaccination cards.