Washington State coach Nick Rolovich has been sued by a former player who is accusing Rolovich and Washington State of “breach of contract, violating his civil rights and covering up COVID-19 cases in athletics.”
The player, Kassady Woods, filed the lawsuit Aug. 20 in Texas, his home state, USA Today and the Seattle Times reported. Woods previously told USA Today that Rolovich asked him to clear out his locker in August 2020 after he acknowledged he was a part of #WeAreUnited, a group of Pac-12 players threatening to sit out the 2020 season unless certain health and safety precautions were met. The players also were advocating for racial equality and being compensated through name, image and likeness rights.
According to a 2020 USA Today report, Rolovich told Woods his involvement with the group would send “mixed messages to the team.” Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said in August 2020 that Woods’ removal from team activities stemmed from his decision to opt out of the season over health concerns rather than his involvement with the unity movement.
“Rolovich’s message is clear and further demonstrates Defendants’ actions under the color of state law to chill public discourse on matters of social and racial justice,” Woods’ lawsuit states. “To Defendants, if a player is on social media and posts regarding players who have opted out, or is supportive of #WeAreUnited and then opts out of playing for any reason, that player’s athletic services contract funds will be terminated unless that player expressly and publicly takes a stance in opposition of the #WeAreUnited movement.”
Woods, who is now a sophomore wide receiver at Northern Colorado, is seeking “actual damages for the harm to his athletic career, lost scholarships and lost educational opportunities as a result of Defendants’ unlawful conduct.” Damages would be “sought in an amount to be determined at trial.”
Wednesday’s news adds to the controversies surrounding Rolovich, who previously went against Washington State’s school mandate to be vaccinated. Now under a state mandate that all public schools, colleges and universities in Washington must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, Rolovich said he would comply with the mandate but did not confirm he would get the vaccine.
Woods, who said last August he has sickle cell trait, also detailed in the lawsuit an incident in which a roommate was exposed to the coronavirus but Rolovich encouraged the program to be quiet about it.
“Woods’ own roommate had been exposed just two days prior to Woods’ arrival on campus,” the lawsuit said. “Woods’ roommate indicated to Woods that roughly ten football players had tested positive at that time. 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.”
Rolovich has not commented on the lawsuit. Washington State said it was aware of the suit but would not comment further, according to the Seattle Times.