Navigation
  •  

Navy asst. football coach fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine despite applying for religious exemption

111th annual Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field. (Midshipman 3rd Class Dominic Montez/ U.S. Navy)
September 14, 2021

Navy offensive assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann was fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite filing for a religious exemption, according to a statement posted by Stutzmann on Monday.

“The Naval Academy Athletic Association policy regarding COVID-19 requires all coaches and staff to be vaccinated against the virus. Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy’s COVID-19 policy, as it has changed these last few months,” Stutzmann wrote in his statement. “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,” he continued. “I wish Navy Football nothing but the best in the future.”

Prior to Stutzmann releasing his statement, Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said the offensive assistant left the staff for “personal reasons.”

“It’s a big loss for us,” Niumatalolo said on North Carolina public radio, USA Today reported. “He’s got a bright future in this profession.”

In his statement, Stutzmann thanked the coaching staff and Midshipmen for making his “family’s time in Annapolis very special,” adding that he is “forever grateful.”

“Coaching at the Naval Academy is a rare opportunity to build bonds with those who share a love of football and an even greater love for service to others,” Stutzmann said. “I will continue to be blessed to see the impact these players will have in service to our great country upon their graduation.”

Last month, the Capital Gazette reported that Stutzmann was not around the team during training camp in his third season as offensive assistant. Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier said the coach was “working remotely on projects for the coaching staff.”

Also in college football, long-time sideline reporter Allison Williams was forced to step away from her position after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This will be the first fall in the last 15 years I won’t be on the sidelines for College Football,” she tweeted, along with a statement on the situation. “My heart hurts posting this but I’m at peace with my decision.”

“While my work is important to me, the most important role I have is as a mother. Throughout our family planning with our doctor, as well as a fertility specialist, I have decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time while my husband and I try for a second child. This was a deeply difficult decision to make and it’s not something I take lightly. I understand vaccines have been essential in the effort to end this pandemic; however, taking the vaccine at this time is not in my best interest,” Williams wrote.

“After a lot of prayer and deliberation, I have decided I must put my family and my personal health first,” she continued. “I will miss being on the sidelines and am thankful for the support of my ESPN family. I look forward to when I can return to the games and job that I love.”