Last week, we reported that Emilio Estevez, star of the Mighty Ducks movies and Disney+’s revival series Game Changers, would not be returning to the show’s second season. The reason, according to insiders, was that he refused to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination—or at least that he “declined to provide assurances that he would comply” with the production’s vaccine requirement, which drove the studio to not renew his contract.
Now, via Deadline, Estevez has released a new statement in which he actively denies being “anti-vaxx” and says that him leaving Game Changers is “nothing more than a good old fashion contract dispute” in addition to “a myriad of creative differences.” That being said, there is an odd COVID angle to all of this.
Estevez says in his statement that he actually got COVID-19 in March of 2020, despite choosing to avoid airports in the early days of the pandemic and driving from the Game Changers set in Vancouver to his home in Los Angeles after filming the pilot. He ended up getting what he refers to as “Long Haul Syndrome” (when COVID symptoms lead to other issues that extend past the disease itself) and was sick up through last fall.
Still, he “reluctantly” returned to the Game Changers set in August of last year, saying he “questioned the wisdom of returning to make a TV show in the middle of a pandemic,” but the producers told him that he’d be “the safest one on set” because he’d have “natural immunity.” Estevez makes it sounds like he didn’t necessarily believe that, but he knew there would be “possible consequences” if he chose not to show up.
So he went through Canada’s COVID quarantine process without publicly revealing that he had been diagnosed with COVID even while feeling the long-haul symptoms, because he says “the legacy of the [Mighty Ducks] franchise” was more important to him than anything. But, even if he didn’t go public, he says the producers and showrunners on Game Changers knew the truth, seemingly implying that whoever leaked that he was refusing to comply with COVID protocols was throwing him under the bus.
Still, he doesn’t address whether or not he has the vaccine or if he would’ve been willing to agree to the protocols if not for these “creative differences,” which seems kind of telling. You can read his full statement at that Deadline link up above.