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Nick Rolovich’s anti-vax stance is an embarrassment to WSU

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Spare me your “individualism” arguments. We’re in a damn pandemic.

Washington State v Utah
Nick Rolovich, last fall, rigorously following masking guidelines.
Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Last night, Washington State Cougars football coach Nick Rolovich announced he had elected not to receive one of the three free, safe, and effective COVID vaccines approved for use in the United States, and as such would not be allowed to attend Pac-12 media day next week with the other 35 participants.

What a colossal embarrassment. And I’m a lot more angry than I imagined I’d be when this news — which I expected to surface in one way or another — finally came out.

I find Rolovich’s stance to be morally bankrupt in the midst of a pandemic, but the arrogance that oozes out of his statement is what is particularly infuriating. When you’re the face of the most prominent part of a large public university — particularly one that is a research institution that features both a medical college and pharmacy college — you don’t get to skate on this one and preemptively shut down questions about your decision.

And let’s be clear: Unless Rolovich has a preexisting medical condition that has led his doctor to recommend against receiving the vaccine, there isn’t a valid reason for his decision. Every reason to not get the vaccine can be either quickly debunked as false or easily exposed for its flawed logic. Those who have reservations should talk to their doctors, who will answer all their questions and make the best choice clear to that individual, which in the overwhelming majority of cases will be “get the vaccine.”

Maybe Rolovich has a preexisting condition. Wouldn’t that be an easy thing for him to clear up? Through his words and actions*, Rolovich has allowed us to independently reach the only logical conclusion: That he’s an anti-science clown whose head is filled with the brain worms served up by the anti-vax crowd.

*Not sure if he’s cleaned this up, but when he was hired, he had a bunch of Q-adjacent folks in the list of accounts he followed on Twitter ...

Nick Rolovich is not a child. He’s a grown-ass man who, like many football coaches, has built his brand on accountability and developing his players into worldly men/husbands/fathers/etc. I think it sends a pretty clear message about leadership when you duck accountability by saying you’re doing this for “reasons which will remain private” and “I will not comment further on my decision.”

You know who will be forced to face questions about vaccinations and Rolovich? Max Borghi and Jahad Woods, who will be in Los Angeles without their coach. What a profile in courage this guy is!

Personally, I hope every reporter during every interview asks Rolovich about his vaccination status for the entire duration of the season.

Furthermore, this decision is likely to have repercussions beyond just him — this is not merely an individual decision, no matter what anyone says. Beyond that fact that he remains, himself, a potential vector for COVID, consider this: If a player’s coach clearly doesn’t support vaccination, is that player more or less likely to get vaccinated?

Every person who gets the vaccine puts us one step closer to ending a pandemic that has killed nearly 3.5 million people worldwide and more than 600,000 people in the United States. Heck, Nick Saban recorded a PSA in Alabama to encourage all citizens to get vaccinated. A coach is in a unique position to lead, and while I doubt Rolovich’s vaccination status leads a player to a concrete decision, it’s impossible to make a case that it helps with vaccination efforts.

At this point, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, which includes people who don’t have a choice about the vaccine — people like like my youngest child, who is not yet eligible. And although the risk to him is small, there’s still a risk, and that risk is rising with the current rise in community spread. It’s a risk that could be virtually eliminated by widespread vaccination.

Maybe Rolovich could turn down OANN long enough to read this.

Dr. Brytney Cobia said Monday that all but one of her COVID patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to fully recover. Some of the others are dying.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

And if all you’re concerned about is the football side of this — and to be clear, that’s well down the list of my personal concerns here, but it’s a concern — well, not having vaccination rates as high as possible on the team and coaching staff puts the Cougars at a clear competitive disadvantage. Intelligent coaches know this.

At this point, do you think you can trust this guy — our unvaccinated coach potentially spraying COVID everywhere at an event where he was supposed to be masked — to adhere to the protocols necessary to make it through this season unscathed by COVID?

Rolovich has coached precisely four games since being hired a year and a half ago, winning one, and we’re already going on our second public embarrassment.

I’m reminded that when Rolovich spoke about reinstituting Jayden de Laura following his DUI arrest, the coach used the phrase “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” I have a feeling it’s not the last time we’ll be using that idiom with regards to Rolovich’s program.

What a long fall it’s been from here. Sigh.