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A former Washington State wide receiver filed a lawsuit against the university and coach Nick Rolovich claiming that the coach violated his civil rights when he was kicked off the team last year after complaining about his potential exposure to COVID-19, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Kassidy Woods filed his lawsuit in Texas last month, though it was not known until this week.
Woods, who is Black, claims that “Rolovich’s acts were racist, intentional, malicious, willful, and in gross disregard” of his civil rights.
“WSU Athletics is aware of the complaint and will not comment on any pending or ongoing legal matter,” the school said in a statement, via the Spokesman-Review.
Woods sues WSU, Rolovich over COVID-19 concerns
A phone call that Woods had with Rolovich last year was a big part of the massive Pac-12 player moment that demanded health and safety protections during the pandemic, racial justice initiatives and more.
Woods told Rolovich in a phone call that he was going to opt out of the season due to the pandemic, as he has sickle cell trait and is at an increased risk if he contracts the virus. Woods released the call to reporters after Rolovich told him that joining the player movement would be a problem.
“If you say, I’m opting out because of COVID and health and safety, I’m good,” he told Woods on the call. “But this group is going to change how things go in the future for everybody, at least at our school. So just think about that. If it’s about getting paid, and racial justice, and that stuff, then it’s probably — there’s two sides here.”
“ ... There’s one way we’ll handle it if it’s COVID-related, and then there’s one way we’ll handle it if it’s joining this group,” Rolovich later continued.
Woods’ family told Yahoo Sports that they saw a connection to his involvement with the player empowerment movement to Rolovich’s comments and his desire to keep Woods out of the locker room after he opted-out.
In the lawsuit, Woods also learned his roommate had tested positive for COVID-19 before he arrived at campus, and that “roughly” 10 other players had also done so at the same time despite claiming they were told by coaches and staff that campus was the “safest place” for them amid the pandemic.
“His roommate felt that Woods should know about the positive cases even though Defendants strictly ordered the players to keep silent to the media and others – including players who had not yet reported back to Pullman – regarding positive COVID-19 cases that were occurring within the program,” the lawsuit reads, via the Spokesman-Review.
Woods has since transferred out of the program, and is now with Northern Colorado.
Rolovich refused to get vaccinated
Rolovich was very against getting a coronavirus vaccine for a long time, but wouldn’t explain his reasoning for his stance.
He even had to miss Pac-12 media day in July because of it, as he was the only coach in the conference that wasn’t vaccinated.
It wasn’t until Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a mandate last month that required all state employees working in an educational role to get vaccinated by Oct. 18. If they didn’t, they risked losing their jobs. That mandate included Rolovich, who later confirmed that he planned on following Inslee’s mandate.
It’s unclear if Rolovich has yet to receive his vaccine, or if he will follow through on that promise. Washington State had the lowest vaccination rate among Pac-12 teams at the time that Inslee’s mandate came out.