He also said he is suffering from Long Haul Covid — and explained why he chose to hide it.
Emilio Estevez is insisting his exit from "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers" has nothing to do with his stance on vaccines. His actual stance, however, is a bit murky.
The 59-year-old actor, who reprised his iconic role as Gordon Bombay for the first season of the Disney reboot, will not return for the second season, Deadline reported last week, claiming his exit was over vaccination requirements on set.
But in a lengthy statement to the outlet on Monday, the departing star insisted he was not anti-vaxx, describing the fallout as "nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute."
In the statement, Estevez revealed that he was among the first wave to catch the virus when it initially took hold back in February 2020, and that was suffering from Long Haul Covid for many months afterward..
While he describes himself as extremely strict about Covid protocols, he never confirms whether or not he ever took the vaccine himself, only clarifying: "I am anti-bully."
"I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop," his statement begins.
"I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution."
Wanting to "clear up some falsehoods" that appeared in the media about his decision to depart the show, he insisted "this was nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe an anti-vaccine position."
He revealed that in late February 2020, while shooting the pilot for "Game Changers," he began feeling ill and originally chalked it up to catching a cold on the ice hockey set.
"I drove to Vancouver for the pilot, due to news of 'an emerging disease,' which would eventually be known as 'Covid 19'," he wrote. "My decision to drive there and back was to avoid mass crowds and international airports. I already started wearing face coverings, gloves and using hand sanitizer. I also genuinely love driving across and around America, as anyone who knows me can attest."
"En route from Vancouver to Los Angeles I became noticeably ill. Once back in L.A. I begged several doctors to be tested for this new variant of flu. I was assured that 'I didn't meet the criteria,' or 'There's no way you have it.' After multiple efforts, I finally received a car side Covid 19 PCR test on March 13, 2020. I continued to become increasingly sick, suffering from fever, sweats, brain fog and mood swings."
He said that on March 17, he received confirmation he had tested positive, thankful that he had decided against visiting his elderly parents — which includes 81-year-old Martin Sheen — until he had received the results.
Estevez said that throughout the summer and fall of 2020, he suffered from "Long Haul Syndrome."
"As the show went back into production in August 2020, I reluctantly soldiered on, but was uncertain about how I would be safe on set. I questioned the wisdom of returning to make a tv show in the middle of a pandemic and how actors could be considered 'essential workers'," he claimed.
"The show producers tried their best to assuage my fears of coming back to work. 'You have natural immunity!' 'You'll be the safest one on set,' I was repeatedly told. Additionally, I was warned by my former reps about possible consequences and legal jeopardy I could face for not reporting to work as ordered."
Ultimately, he said he decided to return to the shoot in Vancouver, strictly following the Canadian quarantine mandate and on-set safety protocols — but never told the public about his diagnosis.
"I did not complain, nor did I release my diagnosis to the public," he said. "I wanted to try and preserve the show morale and be a leader, however, while still suffering from Long Haul Syndrome. The legacy of the franchise was more important to me than my own health."
"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."
Estevez insisted the "anonymous sources" quoted in the Deadline piece, as well as the "producers and show runners all know the truth."
"Simply put, I am anti-bully," he wrote. "My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences – any other narrative is false."
He wished his former co-stars and crew well in season 2, adding to the fans: "I am as disappointed as you are."
TooFab has reached out to Estevez for clarification. Disney+ had no comment.
Estevez has previously cited creative differences with Disney over his Mighty Ducks return; earlier this year he pointed out that the show was set in the same city George Floyd was killed, claiming he pushed for both the BLM movement and the Covid pandemic to be addressed on the show, but was denied.
"I said, 'You know, guys, we have to acknowledge this. We're in the middle of a pandemic.' I got on my soapbox and I cried out that I can't play a character who's complaining about owning a million-dollar piece of real estate in downtown Minneapolis when the city's on fire around us," he told Yahoo at the time.
"The pushback was, 'This is a show that people need that doesn't remind them of what's happening in the world right now. That is the Disney brand. We're not going to acknowledge the virus; we're not going to acknowledge the systemic racism; we are going to be comfort food as we shoot these episodes.'"
"I got in a huge argument with the showrunners about it," he said.