'Mighty Ducks: Game Changers' Star Emilio Estevez Breaks Silence on Series Exit, COVID Battle

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers star Emilio Estevez confirmed he is leaving the series but disputed reports that this had anything to do with him not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Instead, the actor said he had "creative differences" with producers and he battled "long-haul" COVID-19 last year. He began his statement by declaring he is not against getting the vaccination.

Back on Friday, Deadline reported Estevez was leaving the Disney+ series after ABC Signature chose not to pick up the option on his contract for Season 2. Sources told the site there was a "back and forth" between Estevez's team and the Disney Television Studios unit over their COVID vaccination requirement. Estevez's representatives reportedly declined to assure Disney he was vaccinated, as required for members of Zone A, which includes actors and everyone who comes into direct contact with them. Deadline did acknowledge in its original report that creative differences may have played a role in Estevez leaving.

On Monday, Estevez disputed reports that he left Game Changers solely because of the vaccine mandate. "I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop," he began his statement to Deadline. "I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution." His departure was "nothing more than a good old-fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe an anti-vaccine position," he said.

The Breakfast Club actor revealed that he began feeling symptoms of what turned out to be COVID in late February 2020 after he finished filming the Game Changers pilot in Vancouver. After arriving back in Los Angeles, he asked his doctors to test him for COVID. He finally got a test on March 13, 2020, and learned he tested positive four days later. "I suffered the summer and fall of 2020 from what we now know as 'Long Haul Syndrome,'" Estevez wrote.

When production on the rest of Game Changers Season 1 resumed in August 2020, Estevez "reluctantly soldiered on" but was not sure about the COVID precautions being taken. He was even uneasy about the idea of filming at all during the pandemic. The producers "tried their best to assuage my fears of coming back to work," Estevez wrote, adding that they told him he had "natural immunity" and would be the "safest one on set" following his own battle with COVID. His former representatives also warned him about "possible consequences and legal jeopardy" he could face if he didn't return to the set. He agreed to go back to Vancouver, but he believes he was still suffering from "Long Haul Syndrome" even after he followed Canadian quarantine protocols.

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"The legacy of the franchise was more important to me than my own health," Estevez wrote. "In retrospect, I wrongly chose to protect the show over being transparent about having contracted Covid-19. I may have provided another public example to wit, how we are all vulnerable to this deadly disease." He went on to write that any narrative about him leaving for a reason other than a "myriad" of creative differences is false. "To the fans of the franchise - I am as disappointed as you are," he wrote. "To my Ducks cast and crew - have a wonderful Season 2 on the show and please know that I will miss you all."

Estevez starred in the original Mighty Ducks movies as coach Gordon Bombay, and he reprised the role for Game Changers. The show was a big hit for Disney earlier this year and it was quickly renewed for a second season in August. The show stars Lauren Graham as Alex Morrow, who asks Bombay to help her start a youth hockey team of underdogs after her son is rejected by the now-successful Mighty Ducks team. Disney has not commented on Estevez's departure yet.