• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
  • -
    days
  • -
    hours
  • -
    minutes
  • -
    seconds
Law

Jimmy Pitaro, Bob Iger Latest Targets of Lawsuit Over COVID-19 Vaccine

  • ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger were added to lawsuit.
  • Another former ESPN employee joined the lawsuit with two other ex-workers.
Allison Williams sues former employer, ESPN.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger were added as defendants in an amended complaint filed by three former ESPN employees who claim the network’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement violated their religious freedom rights. 

In the new complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on Wednesday, Mike Ryan, a remote graphics operator who worked at ESPN for 15 years, joined the original two plaintiffs: former ESPN reporter Allison Williams and ex-longtime producer Beth Faber.

All have alleged that ESPN refused to grant them religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine. Ryan described in the complaints as a lifelong Catholic — a religion led by Pope Francis, who has urged followers to get vaccinated.   

The amended complaint filed by attorney Christopher Dunn expanded on his attempt to paint ESPN and Disney as government actors. This argument would mean the Equal Protection clause in the 14th Amendment covers the plaintiffs. 

Federal courts have consistently upheld companies in the private sector are free to establish and enforce COVID-19 requirements. 

The lawsuit alleges defendants Pitaro, Iger, former Disney CEO Bob Chapek, and three current Disney board members —  Derica Rice, Susan Arnold, and Francis deSouza — are state actors.

Disney has had a “symbiotic relationship with the Defense Department” that the lawsuit alleges goes back to World War I. This conflict ended nearly three years before the Walt Disney Co. was founded in 1923.

The new complaint made more arguments that attempt to tie ESPN and Disney to the military-industrial complex: 

  • ESPN’s broadcast deal with the NBA, a league Dunn claims has a partnership with the military that is part of “a much broader campaign” that involves Iger and others.
  • Retired General Martin E. Dempsey, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has been the chair of USA Basketball’s board of directors since 2016, “interfaced considerably with the NBA” and its deal with ESPN “reflects coercive power, significant encouragement, joint action, agency control, and symbiosis.”
  • ESPN was criticized a decade ago when it pulled out of a PBS project that examined concussions in football, but Dunn wrote that ESPN’s reporting on concussions shows there are links between sports leagues and the military.
  • Dunn argues the NFL — another ESPN broadcast partner —  teamed up with the White House” to promote vaccination because then-press secretary Jen Psaki referenced the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols in a 2021 news conference.
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose late father served in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, is part of ”the whole-of-government/whole-of-society approach by the military and government to partner” to advocate for vaccination.
  • “Pardon the Interruption” host Michael Wilbon watched the Super Bowl from the White House with co-host Tony Kornheiser in 2013. Wilbon also said on PTI to “get your vaccine, get vaccinated!”
  • The Disney board member defendants — Rice, Francis, and deSouza — have ties to drug companies or labs that had products aimed to prevent, treat or diagnose  COVID-19. 
  • Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee served in the Army during World War II, and Marvel — acquired by Disney in 2009 — would not have succeeded “without the Pentagon’s support.” Lee died in 2018 at age 95.

“Whether little governments and kingdoms on earth — with policies and procedures of little kingdoms and big governments — or fantasy worlds in the movies featuring military heroes, Disney is entwined with the military and the Defense Department,” Dunn Wrote.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Star-Studded NBA Play-In a Potential Ratings Boon for ESPN and TNT

The initial portion of the NBA postseason features three former MVPs.

Calling the Masters Can Make You—or Break You

Legends are made at Augusta—as long as they do things Augusta’s way.

The Masters’ Broadcasters Take What They Can Get

During the first two rounds, ESPN’s coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Inside the Most-Hyped WNBA Draft in History

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Nike
Multiple - USA Careers
NBA
Multiple - USA Careers
Dunham's Sports
Multiple - USA Careers

A Decade-Long Timeline of the Shohei Ohtani–Ippei Mizuhara Saga

Ohtani’s former interpreter has been federally charged with bank fraud.
April 11, 2024

O.J. Simpson Dies of Cancer at 76, Family Says

The family said that Simpson ‘succumbed to his battle with cancer.’
April 11, 2024

Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Stole $16 Million to Cover Gambling Losses, Feds Say

Authorities detailed how Ippei Mizuhara hid bank transfers from Ohtani.
Sponsored

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 10, 2024

Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Pleading Guilty to New Charges, per Report

Ippei Mizuhara is said to have lost over $4.5M of Ohtani’s money.
April 9, 2024

Texans Minority Owner Accused of Rape Pleads Down to $100 Fine

Loya had faced seven counts, including first-degree rape.
April 5, 2024

‘Baseless Corporate Conspiracy’: Hedge Fund Heats Up Feud Between NBA Owners

The Mat Ishbia–Dan Gilbert feud has exploded into view this week.
April 4, 2024

Former Tottenham Owner Avoids Jail Time in ‘Brazen’ Insider Trading Case

Joe Lewis gets three years’ probation and a $5 million fine.