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Colorado State Football Players Claim COVID Coverup

Paul Steinbach

Colorado State University football players and athletic department staff say coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claim CSU is altering contact tracing reports to keep players practicing.

As reported by the Coloradan, CSU football players said they would like to play this season but don’t believe there should be a season given the spike in positive cases on the team in the past two weeks, which could worsen once Colorado State's full student body comes to campus later this month. They say athletic administration are putting their health at risk in return for monetary gain.

"I believe there is a cover-up going on at CSU,'' said a current football player who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. "But they could only cover it up so long and now that we have so many cases across athletics, they can’t cover it up anymore. It’s not about the health and safety of the players but about just trying to make money off the players.''

Said an athletic department staff member, "There are some red flags in the athletic department but the common denominator with this administration is to protect the coaches before the student-athletes and that makes them feel more like cattle than student-athletes.''

As of this writing, 10 total players and staff members had contacted the Coloradan with anonymous accounts of administrators' suspect handling of the coronavirus.

"This [student-athlete] population is the most tested population there is here but obviously some feel that is not a good enough job to make them feel comfortable regarding their health,'' CSU athletic director Joe Park said. "If that's the feeling, we will need to amp it up.''

Parker said previously that there were no positive COVID-19 tests for athletes as of July 20. That number spiked to 16, including 11 football players, as of Sunday.

Players and staff confirmed there were 27 players, about a quarter of the team, missing due to COVID-19 on July 29, the last workout before the university paused practices. 

Players said a number of athletes from different sports attended a party around the Fourth of July holiday and that may have been a root cause of the surge in positive tests.

"I think everybody could be doing a better job,'' the aforementioned football player said. "But for our coaches to tell players not to tell trainers if they have symptoms because we had so many guys out is wrong.''

According to ESPN, CSU president Joyce McConnell said Tuesday she was launching an "immediate and objective" investigation into the athletic department following allegations of student-athletes intimidation regarding COVID-19 protocols.

McConnell said she was "shocked" by the allegations and added that Colorado State would not play football in 2020 unless players feel safe.

"I fully embrace President McConnell's investigation into this matter, and if we learn anyone on our staff has not been fully supportive of our commitment to health and safety, this is unacceptable and will be dealt with swiftly," Parker said in a statement.

Head football coach Steve Addazio issued a statement of his own, which read, in part, "The health and welfare of our student-athletes on the Colorado State football team is our top priority, and I fully support President McConnell's investigation into concerns about whether these protocols were properly followed by everyone involved with our program. We want every student-athlete to have confidence that we are taking every possible measure to ensure their safety, and we will continue working with the training staff, the athletic department and the University to evaluate and implement any additional steps necessary to live up to our high standards."

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