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Nick Rolovich to file lawsuit after being fired for noncompliance with vaccine mandate

Nick Rolovich is reportedly preparing to go to court after his dismissal as Washington State’s football coach. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Nick Rolovich reportedly will take his dismissal as Washington State football coach to court, with his lawyer alleging he was illegally fired and accusing Athletic Director Pat Chun of “discriminatory and vindictive” behavior.

In perhaps the highest-profile case to date of a public employee being terminated because of a state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, the school announced the dismissal of Rolovich on Monday after he did not comply with a statewide order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in August. Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee at $3.2 million per year, remained unvaccinated when the state’s Monday deadline arrived.

Rolovich had cited his religious beliefs as the reason for not being vaccinated.

“It is a tragic and damning commentary on our culture and more specifically on Chun that Coach Rolovich has been derided, demonized and ultimately fired from his job merely for being devout in his Catholic faith,” Brian Fahling, a lawyer for Rolovich, said in a statement obtained by ESPN and Yahoo.

The statement accused Chun of being dishonest with Rolovich and confirmed that Rolovich’s request for a religious exemption had been denied by the committee tasked with approving exemption claims.

“Since at least early April, it became clear that Chun had already determined that Coach Rolovich would be fired,” the statement read. “Chun’s animus toward Coach Rolovich’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and Chun’s dishonesty at the expense of Coach Rolovich during the past year is damning and will be thoroughly detailed in litigation. Chun’s discriminatory and vindicative [sic] behavior has caused immeasurable harm to Coach Rolovich and his family.”

The school did not immediately respond to Fahling’s statement. “Nick is not eligible to be employed at Washington State University, through noncompliance,” Chun summarized Monday night. Rolovich, who was fired for cause, had three years and roughly $9 million remaining on his contract.

Four assistants — Ricky Logo (defensive tackles), John Richardson (assistant head coach/cornerbacks), Craig Stutzmann (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks) and Mark Weber (offensive line) — also lost their jobs, the school said. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will serve as acting head coach as Washington State, which has won three games in a row, prepares for a home game Saturday against BYU.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, vaccination rates among public employees have been rising steadily since Inslee implemented the mandates and now exceed 90 percent of state workers. It reported that the rate is “similarly high” among WSU employees and that around 50 out of 10,000 workers at the school were dismissed over vaccination status.

“The university’s deceitfulness about being unable to accommodate Coach Rolovich even if his religious exemption request had been granted, is exemplified by Chun’s actions arranging a ‘secret’ donor trip that he had Coach Rolovich attend at the height of the pandemic in July 2020,” Fahling’s statement continues. “During that excursion, Chun and other attendees contracted the disease, but Coach Rolovich did not.”

In a video this past summer, Pope Francis advocated for vaccines, saying: “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love. Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”

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