Update: Members of Colorado State's football team began posting an open letter to the CSU community on Saturday, offering support for coach Steve Addazio and denying allegations of racism and verbal abuse. The letter indicates that the team, and the seniors in particular, "unequivocally support Coach [Addazio] and his staff."
"To be absolutely clear, we have not experienced any racially insensitive comments to our from the athletic department or coaching staff," the letter reads. The group goes on to claim that "false allegations have been leveled by individuals not associated with our current football team" and requested that questions regarding the culture at CSU be pointed to them, "not unnamed sources and former coaches who have an ax to grind."
Check out the full letter below, which was shared by multiple players through social media with the hashtag #CSUunited
Just days after multiple Colorado State football players and staff members claimed there is a COVID-19 testing cover-up issue within the football program, the Rams are dealing with another crisis.
Colorado State athletic director Joe Parker announced Friday that all football-related activities are paused indefinitely, pending an investigation into what Parker termed "extremely troubling allegations of racism and verbal abuse from CSU's athletic administration generally and in the football program specifically."
Parker said in a statement that the allegations will be addressed "before we focus on playing football." The pause to football activities includes practices, workouts and team meetings.
"We believe it is our responsibility to make sure that all student-athletes feel welcomed and valued as members of an inclusive athletics community," Parker said.
The investigation into allegations of racism and verbal abuse join another investigation into the allegations that the football program was not adhering to COVID-19 protocols, though others within the program and representing the university heavily disputed those allegations. The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported Tuesday that players and staff members claim coaches told players not to report symptoms, threatened them with the loss of playing time and said the school is altering contact tracing reports in order to keep positive testing numbers down.
"I believe there is a cover-up going on at CSU," said a current player who chose not to be named. "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."
The allegations prompted Colorado State president Joyce McConnell to launch the initial investigation that she promised Wednesday "will move quickly."
"I tell you all now that nothing is more important to me or to CSU than the health and well-being of our students," McConnell wrote in a letter. "Nothing. They are our purpose and our responsibility, each and every one of them, whatever sport they play or major they declare."
Parker and coach Steve Addazio said in statements published by the university that they will "embrace" and "support" the investigation.
Among the allegations levied by these players and coaches is that Addazio, who is in his first year as coach, and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater are reluctant to wear their masks.
"We had a player who definitely had coronavirus symptoms coughing at practice and he wasn't wearing a mask and I was next to him, touching him and there was spit and sweat," a player said. "I told him he needed to get tested but he really didn't want to because then he would be out. The next day he is not at practice. [If he tested positive] he already had spread the virus. That's why a lot of players don't feel safe at football practice."
An unnamed staff member, who was one of 10 total players and staff members interviewed, also raised concerns about the state of the program.
"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," the staffer said.
Several players took to Twitter to dispute the claims made by the unnamed players and staff members in the story.
Parker commented on the current COVID-19 testing program: "This [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. If that's the feeling, we will need to amp it up."
Colorado State associate athletic director for communications Kyle Neaves also released a statement disputing the nature of the reporting.
In a 30-minute interview with @JoeParkerCSU, @MilesBlumhardt asked about the context of this salacious headline *once*.— Kyle Neaves (@KyleNeavesCSU) August 4, 2020
He also excluded that our team - at the insistence of Coach - hasn't been allowed back into the facilities for safety.
But that doesn't fit the narrative. https://t.co/aPIZFEbg5I
Voluntary workouts were paused on July 29 after 27 players missed practice due to COVID-19, according to the report. Those numbers spiked after a number of football players, as well as players in other sports, attended a party over July 4th weekend. Parker agreed that the incident likely led to the increase in positive cases.
Addazio went 44-44 in seven years at Boston College from 2013-19 before being dismissed after the season. It's safe to say that he hasn't exactly endeared himself to current players.
"I think everybody could be doing a better job," a 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."