A day after Colorado State suspended football operations amid allegations of “racism and verbal abuse” in the program, some players came to the defense of head coach Steve Addazio.
The letter preceded an investigative report by the Coloradoan published Saturday afternoon citing recurring allegations of “racial insensitivity and abusive behavior” under Addazio.
Group of players back Addazio
A group of players including starting quarterback Patrick O’Brien used #CSUunited on social media Saturday to share a letter that called the allegations against the program “patently untrue.” Players of different races shared the letter.
“First, the allegation of racism and specifically Coach Addazio is patently untrue,” the letter reads. “To the contrary, our experience since Coach Addazio’s first day has been positive, welcoming and focused on our development as student athletes.”
The letter continues to accuse those who leveled the allegations as carrying out a grudge.
“It is clear to us the false allegations have been leveled by individuals who are not associated with our current football team,” the letter continues. “The unfounded allegations from a disgruntled former coach and/or unnamed source is unfair, unjust and creates the exact demeaning and painful wounds that can be caused by racism.”
ESPN reports that the letter doesn’t have the full support of the team.
‘Toxic’ allegations surface after letter is released
The Coloradoan report published Saturday afternoon cites specific allegations made by a member of the program’s support staff in addition to 20 anonymous current and former players who say they have witnessed recurring abusive behavior, with some describing the program’s culture as “toxic.”
A mental health counselor named Jimmy Stewart told the publication that members of the football staff described a hostile work environment under Addazio while describing him as a bully. Stewart works with student-athletes at CSU.
Report: Conflict over Black Lives Matter march
An anonymous coaching staff member described a tense encounter between Addazio and players over a Black Lives Matter march after a Black player had been held at gunpoint by a white man in Loveland Colorado:
“He's smart enough not to come right out in public and say it, but he thinks BLM is a crock of s---, and that has come out in meetings,” the staff member told the Coloradoan. “When we had the incident with the player, the players wanted to march with shirts that had BLM on it, make posters and say chants. He told them if you are going to do that we aren't marching.”
The report alleges “a pattern of concerning behavior” that predates Addazio’s tenure and dates back to his predecessor Mike Bobo, whom the program parted with last season. The report also accuses athletic director Joe Parker of “turning a blind eye” to the issues.
Racism allegations follow alleged COVID-19 ‘coverup’
The initial allegations arrived Friday, a day after a report in the Coloradoan that 10 players and staff members contacted the paper with concerns about the team’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Players accused the coaching staff of telling players to not report symptoms, threatening players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and altering contact tracing reports to ensure that players could keep practicing, per the report.
The news broke after CSU practices had previously been halted amid a COVID-19 spike within the team. One player who spoke to the Coloradoan characterized the staff’s behavior as a “coverup.” Players who spoke to the paper remained anonymous out of fear of retribution.
AD announced racism claims
Parker went public with the allegations of racism on Friday while vowing a commitment to “being an anti-racist university.” Parker said that he asked CSU president Joyce McConnell to expand an investigation that was looking into the COVID-19 claims to include the allegations of racism.
“Today, we learned of some extremely troubling allegations of racism and verbal abuse from CSU's athletic administration generally and in the football program specifically,” Parker’s statement reads ...
“We must and will address these allegations before we focus on playing football.”
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