A top US college football coach has been fired for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Washington State University (WSU) sacked Nick Rolovich, its highest-paid employee, and four of his assistants, for failing to meet a vaccine mandate.
The mandate means all state workers in Washington have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or lose their jobs.
Mr Rolovich, 42, who earned $3.1m (£2.25m) a year, had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate.
But WSU’s Director of Athletics, Pat Chun, said the exemption had been refused.
“This is a disheartening day for our football programme,” Mr Chun said.
“Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and wellbeing of the young men in our team.”
Mr Rolovich’s sacking marks the culmination of a three-month showdown between the coach and Washington’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.
In August, Gov Inslee announced that all state employees and healthcare workers would need two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to keep their jobs. Monday was the deadline for them to get vaccinated, or have a medical or religious exemption.
But Mr Rolovich had said he would not get vaccinated, calling it a personal decision.
“While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual – including coaches, staff and student-athletes – can make his or her own decision regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. I will not comment further on my decision,” he said earlier this year.
Some 90% of WSU employees and 97% of students have been vaccinated, according to the college.
Mr Rolovich, who was in his second season at WSU, is the first major college football coach to lose their job over their vaccination status.
College sports netted nearly $19bn (£14 bn) in total revenue in 2019, most of which came from football, which is watched by five million people on average per game.
Mr Rolovich’s salary at WSU was barely above the average pay grade of head coaches in college football, but it made him the highest paid public employee in the state, according to local media.