Longtime ESPN college football sideline reporter Allison Williams will not be part of the network’s coverage this season after refusing the company’s policy requiring on-site employees be COVID-vaccinated.
“While my work is incredibly important to me, the most important role I have is as a mother,” Williams wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “Throughout our family planning with our doctor, as well as a fertility specialist, I have decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time while my husband and I try for a second child.”
“This was a deeply difficult decision to make and it’s not something I take lightly,” she continued. “I understand vaccines have been essential in the effort to end this pandemic; however, taking the vaccine at this time is not in my best interest. After a lot of prayer and deliberation, I have decided I must put my family and personal health first. I will miss being on the sidelines and am thankful for the support of my ESPN family. I look forward to when I can return to the games and job that I love.”
ESPN issued the following statement to TheWrap: ““We aren’t going to 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.”
According to an individual close to production, all employees traveling to events including Williams were required to be vaccinated by August 1. This preceded ESPN parent Disney’s requirement that employees be vaccinated by September 30. Williams’ frequent and direct contact with people on the field at different stadiums presented added challenges, given mandates vary by states and even cities, the individual added.
Williams joined ESPN in March 2011. In her tweet, she said this is the first time in 15 years she won’t be on the sidelines but she’s at peace with her decision.
Read the CDC recommendations on vaccinations while pregnant or breastfeeding here.