A former Washington State University football player who opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic is now suing head coach Nick Rolovich.
As reported by The Sporting News, citing USA Today and Seattle Times coverage, Kassady Woods filed the lawsuit Aug. 20 in his home state of Texas, accusing Rolovich and Washington State of "breach of contract, violating his civil rights and covering up COVID-19 cases in athletics."
Woods has claimed hat 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 Conference players who threatened 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.
"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," the 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."
>Rolovich, who made headlines by refusing to comply with WSU's vaccine mandate but has since said he would comply with a statewide mandate, reportedly told Woods at the time that his involvement with the #WeAreUnited 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.
Woods' lawsuit details an incident in which a roommate was exposed to the coronavirus, though 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 states, as reported by TSN. "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."
Woods, 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."