Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich finally released a statement Monday night after an eventful Sunday in the Pac-12 and on the Palouse. The statement comes a day after a lot of speculation and reporting that “several” Washington State football players had been “cut” due to their participation in the #WeAreUnited campaign that has been put forth by athletes in the Pac-12. To get a grasp of everything that happened on Sunday, check out this piece by Mark Sandritter.
Sophomore wide receiver Kassidy Woods recorded a conversation between himself and Rolovich in which Rolovich told Woods that he would not be participating in team activities if he were to sit out due to COVID-19 concerns. He also expressed some concerns about Woods’ participation in the #WeAreUnited group.
Here’s the statement:
“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns. Kassidy informed me he was opting out of this season for health and safety concerns. I wanted to clarify with Kassidy that his decision was based on health and safety and reaffirm our policy related to COVID-19 and the assurance of his scholarship. Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”
Despite Rolovich saying in the statement that he’s “proud of our players ... for using their platform,” he said during the call:
“OK so that’s going to be, that’s gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, cause the COVID stuff is one thing. But, um, joining this group is gonna put you on a, on a — that’s obviously, you know, you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it — it’s gonna be different. You know, if you, if you say, ‘I’m opting out ‘cause of COVID and health and safety,’ I’m good. But this group is gonna change, uh, I guess, how things go in the future for everybody, at least at our school.”
He then goes on in that conversation and says:
“There’s one way we’ll handle it if it’s COVID-related. And then there’s one way we’re going to handle it if it’s joining this group.”
After Rolovich released his statement, ESPN reported that they had spoken with Washington State Athletic Director, Pat Chun, in which he said that “Kassidy Woods’ removal from team activities stemmed from Woods deciding to opt out of the season for health concerns, rather than his involvement with the Pac-12 player unity movement.”
“Rolo is not the coach that’s going to bury his head in the sand and wait,” Chun said. “He’s trying to have honest conversations with his guys. No one had any idea what their concerns or demands were until Sunday.”
It’s worth noting that Rolovich references “getting paid” and “racial justice” in the call, which would make “no one had any idea what their concerns or demands were until Sunday,” seem pretty implausible.
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