Hawkeye players, coach say team is united in change
IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Hawkeye football players described a united team with a changing energy as the Iowa football program deals with allegations of racial disparities in the treatment of black athletes.
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said he delayed the start of practices this week by two days to open up team meetings and conversations as part of the response to that culture.
“It was raw, it was powerful and productive," Coach Ferentz said. "Everything was on the table. It got heated and emotional at times, which I think is good.”
Three players spoke to the media, echoing Ferentz’s sentiments and expressing excitement to be back in Iowa City and with the program.
“We’re all happy and have a lot of hope in our hearts that this program is going to change for the better,” said sophomore running back Ivory Kelly-Martin.
Last week, several former black players shared stories of how they felt black athletes were mistreated and unable to speak up on the culture within the program. That lead Coach Ferentz to place strength coach Chris Doyle on leave while he investigated specific allegations against him. Doyle issued a statement denying those allegations. Ferentz also announced he was forming a committee to listen to and address the culture concerns within the program.
Since then, the program began allowing current players to post on social media, which was previously banned by team policy, and several athletes shared similar viewpoints as former players. Coach Ferentz Friday called it a “stupid policy” that was misguided by a desire to help players deal with media pressures outside of the facilities and did not adapt to a changing world. The coach now says he trusts his players to use the social media responsibly.
One player, defensive back Kaevon Meriweather, made a strong statement on Twitter towards fans: “If you think you could possibly call yourself an Iowa Football fan and you can not agree with what I said and what this team is standing on. Then stop calling yourself a fan.”
On Friday, Meriweather said we was pleased to get more positive response than negative, saying he hoped it would be a call to unity for fans.
“We expect our fans to be there as one,” Meriweather said. “We want your support every step of the way, not only on the field.”
On Friday, Ferentz said the committee is nearly complete and ready to start its work. He also said players expressed a desire to stay with the program and be coached while the program opens up to listening to player concerns.
Ferentz repeatedly acknowledged his own blind spots on racial sensitivities and vowed to work to fix those personally and within the program. He said any problems within the program is ultimately on him as head coach. But players voiced support for Coach Ferentz and his staff.
“I would not want any other coaches to be here," said kicker Keith Duncan. "We came in beliving in Coach Ferentz, our position coaches and we still do."
Players described the issue is being more of one of open communication
"It’s never been a trust issue but a communication issue,” Duncan added.
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