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Former Iowa Football Players Speak Out About Racial Disparities Within Program

iowa football swarm
image credit: Donny Nordmann facebook

On Friday, former Iowa Hawkeye and current Chicago Bear James Daniels tweeted a sobering message about my home state’s flagship college football program.

Given the long-overdue reckoning with systemic racial injustice the nation has faced in the two weeks since George Floyd’s death, Daniels’ tweet set off a chain reaction from former players that has rocked the Iowa football community. His message startled me, but it didn’t surprise me. African American players feeling stifled and being treated unfairly within a program run by the longest-tenured college football coach in the country in a state that’s over 90% white is unfortunately not incredibly earth-shattering.

For all of the admittedly deserved fawning that local and national media do over how impressive Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa football program runs, that very pedestal that the program has been set on has to be a contributor to a former Hawkeye never having publicly stated what James Daniels shared. Kirk Ferentz and his staff turn out phenomenal young men and develop players as well as any program in the country. The sacrifices that players make when such a track record and high level of reverence exists around an athletic program are numerous, but it’s a shame that players of color sacrificing their comfort and emotional well-being to achieve a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is on that list.

Two days ago, Kirk Ferentz shared this message in response.

Many of the complaints centered around the nation’s highest-paid strength-and-conditioning coach, Chris Doyle. He has since been put on administrative leave.

I’m not here to completely pile on my beloved Hawkeyes and one of the most well-respected head college coaches no matter the sport. Ferentz shared this message yesterday evening.

Positive change requires action. Ferentz laid out the creation of an advisory committee within his program, chaired by a former player, which will aim to address the issue of black Iowa football players being treated unfairly and unjustly. In addition, the long-maligned social media ban on current players has been lifted to allow participation in the ongoing (again overdue) discussion regarding injustices and racism towards black people.

The controversy surrounding the Hawkeye football program is just one of countless examples of individuals (myself included) and organizations frankly not having put forth the requisite effort in the past to advance & repair the plight that people of color in this country have faced for generations.

The state of Iowa is a wonderful place to have grown up and live in. Iowa City as well-educated and progressive of a town that exists in the entire U.S. If something so harrowing can have persisted at the University of Iowa, it’s no mystery that America is due for a wholesale change in how our fellow citizens and institutions treat our black brothers and sisters.

Here’s to hoping that Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa football program can be a positive force for good going forward.



Written by squints

I'm not a pessimist, I'm an eternal optometrist.

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