ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. announced Monday he won’t be in Las Vegas covering the NFL Draft later this month because he is unvaccinated, but instead will provide commentary from his home studio.
Kiper, 61, who has been the face of the NFL Draft, one of ESPN’s marquee events for decades, said his decision to forgo vaccination is “specific to my own personal history.”
“The NFL Draft is the highlight of my year and I am looking forward to taking part in my 39th this month on ESPN. For all three days, I will appear from my home studio in Maryland rather than onsite in Vegas as I am unvaccinated from Covid-19,” Kiper tweeted.
“I completely support everyone determining what’s best for their individual circumstance and recognize the value of vaccines. Simply put, my Covid vaccination decision is very specific to my own personal medical history. I appreciate my colleagues, particularly the production staff and my fellow commentators, for their support and flexibility. NFL fans are the most passionate in all of sports and I can’t wait for another great NFL Draft.”
Kiper could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday. ESPN also was not immediately reached.
This year’s NFL Draft is from April 28 to April 30.
The event is must-see TV for league fanatics. The more subdued spectators who attend the draft in person are known to wear their team colors, while others don more elaborate costumes representing their allegiances.
During the multiday event that last seven rounds, teams choose players based on their needs.
Kiper is not the only ESPN commentator to make headlines for being unvaccinated.
In October, longtime ESPN college football and basketball reporter Allison Williams announced she was leaving the network over its Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
“I have been denied my request for accommodation” to not get the vaccination, Williams said in a video posted Oct. 15 to Instagram. “Effective next week, I will be separated from the company.”
The Walt Disney Co., which co-owns ESPN, announced in late July that it would require all salaried and nonunion hourly employees to be vaccinated within 60 days.
Elisha Fieldstadt and Tim Fitzsimons contributed.