ESPN reporter Allison Williams leaving network over Covid vaccine mandate

Elisha Fieldstadt
ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams talk to the camera on the sideline during the Cotton Bowl Classic matchup between the USC Trojans and Ohio State Buckeyes on December 29, 2017, at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
Matthew Visinsky | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Longtime ESPN college football and basketball reporter Allison Williams said over the weekend that she will be leaving the network over its Covid-19 vaccine mandate.

"I have been denied my request for accommodation" to not get the vaccination, Williams, 37, said in a video posted Friday to Instagram. "Effective next week, I will be separated from the company."

The Walt Disney Co., which co-owns ESPN, announced in late July that it would require all salaried and nonunion hourly employees to be vaccinated within 60 days. ESPN had told its 5,500 traveling employees in May that they would need to be vaccinated by Aug. 1.

Williams said in a statement last month that she had "decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time while my husband and I try for a second child."

Doctors have been repeating for months that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and women who would like to have babies.

"I am also so morally and ethically not aligned with this, and I've had to really dig deep and analyze my values and my morals, and ultimately I have to put them first," Williams said in her Instagram video.

She added: "I cannot put a paycheck over principle. I will not sacrifice something that I believe and hold so strongly to maintain a career."

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Williams previously worked for Fox Sports Florida. She joined ESPN in 2011.

She also addressed people who told her it was her "moral obligation" to receive the vaccination.

"I weighed that and I thought about implications," Williams said. "We all want to be good neighbors. We all want to end this pandemic. But ultimately, an injection that does not stop transmission and spread, for me, did not weigh in morally."

Vaccinated people are significantly less likely to get infected with Covid-19, but also much less likely to die from the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Williams said that in April, Disney told employees it would be their decision to get the vaccination, but it was encouraged.

"Their values were clearly changed," Williams said. "I had hoped that they would respect that mine did not."

She added that she does not know what it's like to run a multibillion-dollar company swayed by "societal and political pressures."

An ESPN representative said they would not "comment on an individual."

"We are going through a thorough review of accommodation requests on a case by case basis, and are granting accommodations where warranted. Our focus is on a safe work environment for everyone," the network said Monday in a statement that was also shared with NBC News when Williams announced last month that she would not be on the sidelines during ESPN's college football broadcasts for the first time in 15 years.

Sideline reporters are subjected to varying vaccine protocols and mandates, depending on the team they are covering and the stadium they are reporting from.