Howe: Iowa Football Must Address Former Players Speaking Out

June 5, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz wants to listen and learn about racism and inequality in this country, he said during a Wednesday press conference. He calls the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last week in Minneapolis heartbreaking and frustrating. He’s angry.

“Change is really needed right now,” the Iowa football coach said. “And it’s in our hands to try to do something with it.”

For Ferentz, the change can start within his program and in his community. Comments from former Hawkeye players on social media speak to that.

Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels, who left Iowa after three seasons for the NFL and came back to earn his degree by age 21, spoke up first after Ferentz shared his feelings on kneeling for the national anthem on Wednesday.

The conversation picked up from there throughout the last few days. Others confirmed what Daniels was saying.

Those discussions brought in more former Hawkeyes reacting to their posts. Some of them commented, others liked or retweeted them.

Thursday, former Hawkeye linebacker Aaron Mends shared a story about about an encounter with local police while at Iowa. Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson added to the account.

On Friday, Faith Ekakatie, who feared for his life while being held at gunpoint by the Iowa City Police and dealt with racism while playing against Nebraska, raised a concern about Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Teammates supported the claim.

If any of these comments from any of these players offend you, you are part of the problem. I wish they would have spoken out while they were here. That they didn’t could be telling.

As a journalist covering the program for the last 23 years, I should have done more. I could have asked why Iowa brought in 49 black players on scholarship in the four recruiting classes from 2015-2018 and 19 of them transferred, but only four of 40 white players left for reasons other than academics, discipline or injury. The numbers here did not include original walk-ons.

In the ’15 class, Iowa brought in nine back athletes. All but James Daniels and Michael Ojemudia left. Of the 12 white players in the recruiting cycle, none left for reasons other than injury, academics or personal reasons before graduating.

Maybe there’s reason for these lopsided statistics. I will ask the next time I’m given the opportunity.

The bottom line is that there’s an issue in the program. How big is the issue? It’s hard to tell from the outside, but the Iowa athletics department as a whole is addressing it.

When Chris Doyle was involved in the rhabdo story a decade ago, he was reluctant to speak about it. It happened in February of 2011 and he did not address it until August of that year. He was absent from the press conference about the incident, and Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta missed the media gathering as well because they were on business trips and didn’t come back for it.

The Iowa program should address these claims as soon as possible. Ferentz and Doyle must be a part of that. The longer it allows these charges to be discussed publicly without its input, the worse it looks.

From my two plus decades of interactions with Ferentz and Doyle, they seem like good humans. But I do not know them as well as the players speaking out. I’m not a member of their team.

If they care, and I think they do, they need to speak up. More importantly, they must address the issues in the program.



Update. Ferentz released a statement Friday night after his former players returned to social media to express their issues.

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