A Washington State football player said his status on the team was threatened by the head coach because the player is part of a group of Pac-12 Conference athletes threatening to sit out this season unless demands for “fair treatment’’ are met.
The player, wide receiver Kassidy Woods, said he thinks he has been removed from the team because Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich told Woods to clear out of his locker after Woods on Saturday acknowledged he is part of the athletes’ group with goals including clearer COVID-19 safety protocols and increased testing, racial equality and compensation through name, image and likeness rights.
On Sunday, Woods said he was removed from the football team’s group chat.
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“I can’t even be around my teammates, so that let’s me know I’m dismissed from the team,’’ Woods told USA TODAY Sports.
Pat Nunn, a red-shirt sophomore defensive back, and Dallas Hobbs, a red-shirt junior defensive lineman, said their status with the team is uncertain after informing Rolovich they are part of the athletes’ group threatening not to play this season.
“It’s a muddled mess right now,’’ said Hobbs, who started seven games last season. “I think no one knows exactly how to handle it, so it’s still something that’s in the air.’’
Rolovich called a team meeting Sunday night to address the issues, a person with a knowledge of the meeting said. The person was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Bob Stevens, associate director of athletic communications at Washington State, declined comment.
Stevens referred USA TODAY Sports to a Pac-12 statement issued Sunday after the athletes’ group announced goals as part of a story published in a Players Tribune article titled #WeAreUnited.
“We support our student-athletes using their voice, and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics,’’ the statement said. “As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority.’’
Woods said Rolovich told him his scholarship will be honored, and the Pac-12 statement Sunday reiterated that any athlete who decides not to compete this year because of health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.
The Pac-12 has guaranteed four-year scholarships since 2015.
The conversation between Woods and his coach took place Saturday, according to Woods, who said he called Rolovich to inform him he had decided against playing this season because of concerns related to COVID-19. Woods said he has sickle cell anemia and is afraid that will put him at greater risk of getting COVID-19, especially if he’s traveling to football games.
After he explained his decision to Rolovich, Woods said, the coach said he could accept that but then asked Woods if he were part of the Pac-12 athletes group. Woods said he acknowledged he was and Rolovich made it clear that remaining aligned with a group of athletes threatening to sit out over issues that include compensation and social justice would jeopardize his future with the team.
Woods told USA TODAY Sports he was ready to sacrifice for the group’s cause.
“Change has to be made,’’ Woods said. “This stuff has been going on for way too long. There’s no greater opportunity than doing it now.”
Lamonte McDougle, a red-shirt junior defensive end, said Rolovich had no objections to McDougle being part of the athletes group after he vowed to play regardless of whether the groups’ demands are met. Based on McDougle’s understanding, he said, no one has officially been kicked off the team.
“There just has to be some clarification that guys really want to opt or not,’’ he said.
McDougle, one of the team’s top defensive players, also tweeted: “I agree with everything this movement is fighting especially the health concerns but not playing this season isn’t an option for me I got ppl that need to eat. so if the NCAA wants to use me as a lab rat it is what it is”