It was recently revealed that franchise star Emilio Estevez would not be returning for the second season of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney+. This news was met with shock from fans of the show, many of whom have already said they won’t be watching the new episodes without him when season 2 debuts. Needless to say, Emilio’s exit is a big loss for Game Changers, and is going to affect the show in a major way moving forward.
Shortly after the news broke, there were rumors spreading that the actor had left due to refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. Hoping to clear the air, Estevez wrote a lengthy statement published by Deadline that completely explains his side of the story, noting that he feels just as “disappointed” as the fans that he won’t be returning. Insisting that he’s “not anti-vaxx,” Estevez says the problem was really with a contract dispute combined with the dreaded “creative differences.”
“I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop. I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution. I want to address what transpired and clear up some falsehoods which appeared in an article regarding my decision to depart The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. In the final analysis, this was nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe an anti-vaccine position.”
Emilio Estevez goes on to explain his own experience with Covid-19, which he contracted after shooting the pilot for Game Changers in February 2020. According to Estevez, he was actually taking the pandemic very seriously and was reluctant to return to work last fall for safety concerns. He says the producers tried to convince him he had “natural immunity” and would be the “safest one on set,” and ultimately, he reluctantly started filming when he was warned about possible legal consequences.
In his statement, Estevez explains in detail how he suffered from Long Haul Syndrome in the months after his diagnosis, but he soldiered on by putting his own health to the side for the sake of the fans and the show. Estevez says the goal was to “try and preserve the show morale and be a leader,” but he seems to suggest that the production had essentially bullied him into filming the series when he wasn’t certain that it was safe. With that, he disputes the rumors that it all comes down to a vaccination refusal.
“The quoted ‘anonymous sources,’ producers and showrunners all know the truth. 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. 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. Ducks Fly Together!”
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers had previously been renewed for season 2, and the series will presumably write out the Gordon Bombay character in between seasons. You can watch the first season on Disney+, and you can read Emilio’s full statement at Deadline.