ESPN will not be sending news personnel to the Beijing Olympics next month due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, Deadline reported Thursday.
ESPN was planning to send four reporters to China to cover the games. The decision arrives after Olympics rightsholder NBC confirmed it would also be keeping sports announcers remote rather than on-site for the same reason, per The New York Times.
"The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us," said ESPN's Norby Williamson. "With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us."
ESPN said the network will instead "focus on covering the Games remotely."
Considering its rights deal, NBC will still have "by far the biggest contingent of U.S. media" covering the Games in China, writes Deadline.
"We'll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing, and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics," Senior Vice President of Communications at NBC Sports Greg Hughes told USA Today on Wednesday.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will kick off on Feb. 4, running through Feb. 20.