EKU releases statement after kicker quits, says coaches aren’t keeping players safe from COVID-19

A member of the Eastern Kentucky University football team has quit over safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 8:21 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - A member of the Eastern Kentucky University football team has quit over safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landon White, a redshirt junior, was a kicker for the Colonels. He took to Instagram on Tuesday to voice his frustrations:

“No matter what you hear the facts are the facts, with the main fact being the coach and some staff, do not care about player safety.” White wrote.

View this post on Instagram

8-4-20. My last day is finally here. Today I have resigned my position on the Eastern Kentucky University football team as a kicker. Not huge news in the sports world I know but... No matter what you hear the facts are the facts, with the main fact being the coach and some staff, do not care about player safety. I will surely miss my brothers on the field. This is a tough day for me, but somebody has gotta tell the truth on what us athletes are going through during this pandemic. At Eastern Kentucky Football there is little or no testing, (last team test was July 6). Symptomatic players still in the building and around other teammates. But the same day people had symptoms we continued to practice instead of face the issue head on. Keep in mind we started fall camp on Friday July 31st. We have plenty of players and staff test positive over the past month. But you have probably heard very little on the matter. Have y’all heard about us suspending anything? Of course not. There are meeting rooms with 100+ players and staff crammed into it with zero space and no social distancing rules in sight. There are a bunch of potential positives in there. The Player cafeteria (case dining hall) endangers the EKU Cafeteria staff as well as other students who are now on campus, masks are routinely not worn while players are constantly being reminded by the dining hall staff instead of our coaches to keep it on. The Head Coach knows and the Head Coach does nothing. The Head Coach does not care about his players safety as well as his staff and their families. He cares about the 500k we are about to earn by playing WVU in Morgantown at the end of the month. The truth has to be told and I’ll be your guy. I love my teammates as well as my family and I’ll forever cherish the l moments I had with them. With 2 pregnant sisters, 3 nieces and a nephew, and a mom & dad as well as my Grandmother and grandfather I love dearly, I need to protect them at ALL cost. I will not endanger anyones health by continuing to play. This goes for my players family and my family. People need to know what the NCAA and University is really about and it’s not about player safety. #DoTheyReallyCare

A post shared by Landon White (@landon1white) on

In an interview on Big Blue Insider Wednesday night, Head Coach Walt Wells said players who have symptoms are encouraged to get tested.

“We have a protocol that you don’t come here if you have those symptoms,” Wells said. “We just have to continue to educate them and say, ‘we get you tested, we find out what’s going on with you, and we can help you'.”

EKU released this statement Wednesday afternoon from Director of Athletics Matt Roan:

Eastern Kentucky University Athletics is aware of online statements recently made by a former student-athlete. First and foremost, the health, safety and overall well-being of our student-athletes will always be a primary priority. Head Football Coach Walt Wells and I have met continuously to ensure that football operations continue to adhere to local, state and health organization guidelines. We completely agree that egregiously or willfully ignoring safety guidelines, or our established protocol by any of our athletic programs, staff or students is a serious issue and will not be tolerated.

Our programs returned to campus on July 6. In preparation for summer participation, every student-athlete and sport-specific coach and staff member was tested for COVID-19. Furthermore, any student-athlete reporting to campus for activity for the first time in August has been, and will continue to be, required to receive a negative test result prior to their return. To coincide with the recent commencement of preseason practice, weekly testing will be performed consistent with resocialization requirements. When a student-athlete, coach or staff member reports symptoms to EKU Sports Medicine, that individual has been immediately monitored, tested and quarantined, if necessary.

Our staff and coaches take every opportunity to remind student-athletes to practice social distancing – including conducting meetings virtually – wear the proper masks/PPP, practice proper hygiene and to contact EKU Sports Medicine if they are feeling ill.

We continue to learn during this pandemic and our protocols evolve as we learn new information and receive additional guidance from public health professionals. EKU Athletics continues to work in lockstep with University administration, the EKU Office of Public Safety and Risk Management and the Madison County Health Department.

Another EKU football player, junior offensive lineman Graham Ashkettle, quit the team over COVID-19 safety concerns, posting on social media that he was “not completely comfortable with the adherence to the COVID-19 measures at EKU.”

Wells maintains that his staff is doing everything they can to follow proper CDC guidelines.

“When you walk into our team meeting room, we’ve got two hand sanitizers as soon as you come in and two as soon as you come out, they go in one way and they go out one way,” Wells said. “We eat in the cafeteria by ourselves for the next three days, and then we go into exclusive catering for the rest of fall camp, we’ve got our kids that are living on campus in a room by themself, just trying to do everything we can to bubble these guys on a college campus.”

Three EKU student-athletes and three athletics staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in early July.

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