Billy Ray Stutzmann, who worked as an assistant football coach at the United States Naval Academy for the past two seasons, was fired from his job after refusing to get a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo stated earlier that Stutzmann had left for “personal reasons.” However, Stutzmann published a post on Twitter, revealing that he was actually fired by the academy after they denied his religious exemption request.
In a statement, Stutzmann revealed that after much thought and prayer, he decided not to take the vaccine due to his religious beliefs. The academy had made it clear that all coaches and staff members had to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy… I continue to stand firm in my conviction of faith, but I understand and respect that each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues,” the statement said.
Last month, the Pentagon mandated the vaccine for all members of the United States military. News of Stutzmann getting fired was released as another Navy assistant, who was thought to be fired, was brought back on the team. Irvin Jasper, a longtime offensive coordinator for the navy football team, was initially terminated from his job by athletic director Chet Gladchuk after the team’s recent dismal performance.
However, it was later decided that Jasper would remain as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Jasper had been the team’s offensive coordinator for more than a decade. “It was an unfortunate situation. There’s some emotion involved, obviously, but we just lost a big game… I think cooler heads have prevailed,” Niumatalolo said.
Another football coach who refused the COVID-19 vaccine was fired back in early summer. Rick Dennison from the Minnesota Vikings was asked to follow a National Football League (NFL) vaccine mandate for Tier 1 employees unless a medical or religious exemption was granted. Dennison did not get the vaccine and was removed from his post. However, the team kept in touch with him and eventually brought him back to a new role as a senior offensive advisor.
“I felt like it was important that we use him as a resource, but we also give him the opportunity to continue to work. With the way the protocols are, he can’t be around the players in person, but he has so much knowledge and so much experience that I felt like he could be a big help,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine. However, according to an Aug. 27 post by Liberty Counsel, the Pfizer vaccines currently being distributed in the United States are still under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) because there are no Comirnaty vaccines available in the country. As such, people should have the right to refuse experimental vaccines.