Entertainment TV Emilio Estevez Addresses His Exit from 'The Mighty Ducks' amid Reports of Dispute Over Vaccine Mandate The actor also revealed he had COVID-19 in early 2020 and was a long-hauler, someone who continued to suffer symptoms months after the initial infection By Katie Campione Katie Campione Digital News Writer, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 8, 2021 07:39 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos Photo: Getty Images Emilio Estevez is addressing his exit from The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and speaking out about struggling with long haul COVID. On Friday, Deadline and Variety reported that the actor would not be returning to the Disney+ show for season two due to a disagreement about ABC Signature's COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Following the reports about his exit from the show, Estevez told Deadline on Monday that his departure was due to "nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute." A rep for Estevez did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. When reached by PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Disney had no comment. "I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop," he said in a statement to the outlet. "I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution." However, he stopped short of directly saying whether he was or was not vaccinated. Estevez maintained that he had not left the show because of "an anti-vaccine position," and then revealed that he contracted COVID-19 last year and spent much of the year battling prolonged symptoms. (According to the Mayo Clinic, coronavirus "long-haulers" can continue to experience symptoms for weeks or months after infection, including fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste or smell, etc.) Emilio Estevez Is Back on the Ice in First Teaser for Mighty Ducks: Game Changers Getty Images "In late February 2020, at the end of shooting the pilot for the The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers in Vancouver, I wasn't feeling 100%. I chalked it up to being on a cold set and on an ice rink day after day," he began. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 17, 2020, he said, adding that he struggled with long-haul symptoms through "summer and fall of 2020." "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," he continued. "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." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday. Despite his concerns, the show's producers assured him he would be safe, his statement reads. He also said he was warned by his former reps "about possible consequences and legal jeopardy" of not returning to work. "So, I returned to Vancouver. I followed the Canadian quarantine mandate as well as the strict 'Zone A' on set Covid protocols," Estevez said. "I did not complain, nor did I release my diagnosis to the public. 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." Emilio Estevez (center) on the set of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. Disney + Martin Sheen Recalls How Laurence Fishburne Saved His Son Emilio Estevez from Drowning as a Teen He continued, "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 ended his statement by saying: "Simply put, I am anti-bully. My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences – any other narrative is false. To the fans of the franchise – I am as disappointed as you are." "To my Ducks cast and crew – have a wonderful Season 2 on the show and please know that I will miss you all," the exiting actor said. "It was an honor and a thrill to be able to return as the iconic and beloved character, Gordon Bombay, a character which has been a celebrated benchmark in my 40 year career. And I thank the studio and the producers for creating an opportunity to allow me to visit him again." Centered around a ragtag hockey team, the first The Mighty Ducks movie was released in 1992 and starred Estevez along with Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Josef Sommer, Joshua Jackson and Elden Henson. The hockey flick spawned two sequels — D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) and D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996) — and an animated series. The first season of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers premiered on March 26, nearly 30 years after the original film franchise. Estevez reprised his role as coach Gordon Bombay for the 10-episode series. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. 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