Two former ESPN employees have sued the network and its parent company, the Walt Disney Co., over the vaccine mandate imposed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court Wednesday by former reporter Allison Williams and former producer Beth Faber, Front Office Sports reported.
They claim in the lawsuit that ESPN refused to accommodate either of them.
“Forcing 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 lawsuit said.
It said ESPN and Disney “have imposed an unconstitutional burden on Plaintiffs’ exercise of religion through their imposition of the vaccine mandate.”
The suit alleges that Faber was all but pushed out the door, saying that in June 2021, “HR Representative Julie Walden, who rather than objectively stating the steps to take, when Plaintiff expressed her sincere beliefs about the role God plays in her life and the basis for her religious objection, threateningly told Plaintiff that ‘maybe God has led you to a new career, when God closes a door, he opens another.'”
The lawsuit said ESPN’s response to Faber’s request for an exemption based on her Catholic faith showed “more of an antipathy toward religious accommodation than a search for truth.”
After what the suit called “no serious attempt at accommodation,” she was fired.
A similar scenario played out with Williams, the suit said: Her request for an exemption was denied, and she was later ousted.
The suit said Disney and ESPN were “encouraged sufficiently by the government” and “jointly involved with the government” in pursuing its COVID-19 vaccination policy.
“Disney/ESPN, working on behalf of the government, targeted the class of persons, media workers who oppose the vaccine mandate,” the lawsuit said.
The suit said media personnel were targeted because of their “huge influence on the public and on professional athletes.”
Disney and ESPN “browbeat employees and professional athletes into taking the vaccine. Beyond browbeating employees and professional athletes, they effectively made sure those individuals were suspended and/or terminated for opposition,” the lawsuit said.
It said Disney and ESPN “served the government’s public relations campaign interest. And Disney/ESPN was handsomely rewarded for doing so.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. ESPN’s headquarters is in Bristol, Connecticut.
“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 need to put them first,” she said then.
“Ultimately, I cannot put a paycheck over principle,” Williams said. “I will not sacrifice something that I believe and hold so strongly to maintain a career.”
Front Office Sports reported that ESPN declined to comment on the lawsuit.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.