Two former ESPN employees have filed a federal lawsuit against the company, claiming that its coronavirus vaccine mandate violated their religious freedom.

Filed by former ESPN reporter Allison Williams and ex-producer Beth Faber, the lawsuit claims that the sports media empire and its parent company, Disney, forced them to choose between their employment and violating their religious beliefs. The two were fired in 2021 after failing to comply with the mandate.

ESPN Reporter Allison Williams interview Devin Vassell #24 of the Florida State Seminoles after the game against Louisville Cardinals at the Donald L. Tucker Center on February 24, 2020, in Tallahassee, Florida. (Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

“Forcing [the] plaintiffs to choose between continuation of their employment and a violation of their religious beliefs in order to retain their livelihoods imposes a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ ability to conduct themselves in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” the pair’s attorney, Christopher Dunn, wrote in the complaint.

The two were fired in 2021 after failing to comply with the mandate. In an October 2021 Instagram post, Williams said that she could not violate her values and morals to accommodate her employer’s demands.
“I have been denied my request for accommodation by ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, and effective next week, I will be separated from the company,” she said. “I’m so morally and ethically not aligned with this. I’ve had to really dig deep and analyze my values and my morals. Ultimately, I need to put them first. The irony in all this are the same values and principles I hold so dear are what made me a really good employee and probably what helped with the success I’ve been able to have in my career.”

Faber, who worked more than 30 years with ESPN, said that the company made “no serious attempt” to negotiate a deal with them.

ESPN anchor Sage Steele also filed a lawsuit in April 2022 against the network, alleging it violated her free speech rights by illegally retaliating against her after she denounced the company’s vaccine mandate as “sick” and questioned former President Barack Obama’s blackness over his being raised by his white family.

“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” Steele said. “Barack Obama chose black and he’s biracial…congratulation to the President, that’s his thing, I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad is nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him, but okay. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”

Steele’s lawsuit claimed that ESPN (a Disney subsidiary) forced her to apologize and then “retaliated against her by taking away prime assignments and failing to stop her colleagues from bullying and harassing her, as well as taking action based on ‘inaccurate third-party accounts’ of her comments before reviewing their context,” according to Yahoo Sports.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...