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Rolo’s goal-line stand

Before being fired by Washington State University this week, Nick Rolovich was the only head coach in major college football who refused to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The former University of Hawaii quarterback dug in his heels and it cost him his job, as well as the $3 million annual salary that came with it. Without a chance to say goodbye to his players Monday, he walked away from a team that had won three straight games. Gone are the perks and prestige of being a college head football coach. Four of his assistants were also fired for refusing jabs.

Talk about making a goal-line stand. That is a lot to sacrifice over an anti-vaccine stance Rolovich has refused to publicly explain. The speed with which it was announced he planned to file suit against the university says he may not have been all that surprised by the firing.

Depending on one’s view of vaccines and vaccine mandates, Rolovich is a selfish fool, a sainted martyr or falls somewhere in between. For those in the majority who support vaccination efforts, his situation is a telling look into how committed opponents can be, and the lengths they will go to push the issue.

How many of us would give up a $3 million-a-year dream job over an injection that 3.7 billion people have received worldwide? Saturday’s Mandate Free Maui Unity Rally and March in Kahului drew several thousand folks who might consider it.

If Rolovich wasn’t busy coaching his last game for the Cougars, he could have been the keynote speaker and led the march along Kaahumanu Avenue. The maskless crowd would have welcomed him with open arms. And perhaps exposed him to the disease, as Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and several of his staffers were when they met with a mandate opponent last week. The mayor claimed he learned about his possible exposure on social media and was not contacted directly.

Mandate opponents insist the disease is not that big a deal. In speech after speech during Saturday’s two-and-a-half-hour pre-march rally, the danger of coronavirus was minimized. The speakers and crowd were far more concerned about what they claim is government overreach that threatens freedom, liberty and medical self-determination.

They may be in the minority, but it’s a vocal minority. And apparently well financed. Somebody is paying for all those signs, banners, off-island speakers, equipment rentals and food. It has the feel of a fledgling political movement, one based on grievance and distrust of the status quo.

Will this movement end with the pandemic or is it intended to be a new political player on Maui? Rolovich is looking for work. He could be just the candidate to represent the party of the aggrieved and untrusting.

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