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Leaders of Pac-12 player movement left ‘disappointed’ after meeting with commissioner

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 8, 2020

In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, commissioner Larry Scott speaks during the Pac-12 NCAA college basketball media day, in San Francisco.   (Associated Press)
In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, commissioner Larry Scott speaks during the Pac-12 NCAA college basketball media day, in San Francisco.  (Associated Press)

Eighteen athletes from the Pac-12 Conference, including Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs, endorsed a letter to Larry Scott expressing “disappointment” and “concern” with what transpired during an initial meeting between the commissioner and leaders of the #WeAreUnited movement.

The email letter was initially obtained by ESPN and later shared with other media outlets Saturday, revealing more discord between Scott and the group of athletes – primarily football players – who joined forces nearly a week ago to raise concerns about COVID-19 safety protocols, racial injustice and economic rights.

“After finally speaking to us yesterday, August 6, 2020, we were all left disappointed and deeply concerned that you are not taking this matter seriously,” the letter read.

The group, which requested daily meetings with Scott and Pac-12 athletic directors, claimed it took four days to meet with the commissioner, “which is itself concerning.”

“This needs to be handled with a sense of urgency, compassion, and fidelity to scientific best practices as fall camp begins in 10 days.”

In the email, the Pac-12 athletes claim Scott denied their request for daily COVID-19 testing and didn’t offer confidence that testing protocols would be uniform across the conference. Washington State wide receiver Kassidy Woods told The Spokesman-Review on Sunday the Cougars were testing athletes with more regularity than other schools in the conference, he learned from peers throughout the conference. Woods said WSU players were being tested once every two weeks.

“Specifically, you informed us that there cannot be daily testing,” the letter said, “nor could there be regular testing since you claimed necessary tests were ‘unavailable’ and that it would be ‘impossible’ to mandate testing and best practice COVID precautions conference wide.”

Scott sent the group an email Friday afternoon addressing points raised in the initial meeting and applauded “the passion and honesty with which you spoke yesterday evening.” The commissioner assured the league would be visiting each of the health-related concerns listed by the player group with its medical advisory committee and would “answer them in the very near future.”

But that didn’t change the tone of an email signed by 18 athletes from all 12 schools in the conference.

“Without a discernible plan and mandates to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, it is absurd, offensive, and deadly to expect a season to proceed,” the letter said.

The email also addressed the recent situation involving Woods and Hobbs, WSU players who’ve been especially proactive in the “#WeAreUnited” movement, along with defensive back Patrick Nunn.

“Sadly, we are now witnessing what we consider unlawful retaliation against Pac-12 college athletes exercising their First Amendment right, including Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs and Kassidy Woods, who were dismissed from the team and had their scholarships in jeopardy for using their voices in support of the #WeAreUnited Movement.”

Bill Stevens, WSU’s associate athletic director for communications, told The Spokesman-Review Saturday that reports of Hobbs and Woods being dismissed from the team are “unequivocally false.” Both remain on scholarship and are listed on the Cougars’ football roster.

Woods, who has sickle cell trait, has formally opted out of the 2020 football season, citing COVID-19 concerns. The redshirt sophomore has said he’s not necessarily worried about contracting the virus at WSU, and hoped to stay in Pullman for practices and workouts, but he is fearful he’d be exposed to COVID-19 while traveling to other Pac-12 schools where testing protocols may not be as consistent.

Members of Woods’ family, and Woods himself, were unhappy with how first-year WSU coach Nick Rolovich handled a phone call with the player last Saturday. During the call, which was recorded by Woods, Rolovich said, “there’s one way we’ll handle (the opt out) if it’s COVID related, then there’s one way we’re going to handle it if it’s joining this group.”

When Nunn spoke to Rolovich, the coach also told him “opting out because of health and opting out because of the movement is two different things,” the redshirt sophomore defensive back recently told the S-R.

According to Cougfan.com, Hobbs hasn’t been practicing with the team, but the junior had a productive conversation with Rolovich and hopes to come to a resolution soon.

Along with Hobbs, the email letter was signed by Cal’s Andrew Cooper, Jake Curhan, Joshua Drayden and Valentino Daltoso, Washington’s Ty Jones and Joe Tryon, UCLA’s Elisha Guidry and Otito Ogbonnia, Arizona State’s Cody Shear, Arizona’s Malik Hausman, Utah’s Nick Ford, Oregon State’s Jaydon Grant, Oregon’s Jevon Holland, Stanford’s Elijah Higgins, Dylan Boles and Treyjohn Butler, and USC’s Chase Williams.

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