We haven't had much to say about the current moment in American life and culture, with the discussion centered around Black Lives Matter, for a variety of reasons, none of them adequate. That's on us. But the reality of the current moment slammed into the Iowa football program on Friday night as several black former players took to Twitter to criticize the culture within the Iowa program.
The night began with James Daniels calling out the unfair and unequal treatment of black players at Iowa.
There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.— James Daniels (@jamsdans) June 6, 2020
Several former teammates expressed agreement, such as Darian Cooper:
@organicallycool remember when they kicked you out of workouts because only half your hair was braided— Darian (@SuperCooper93) June 6, 2020
And Jaleel Johnson:
I got kicked out of workouts because my shoes werent tied properly. Lol— Jaleel Johnson (@leellxvii) June 6, 2020
I got my new Chevy camero, KF called me in his office and asked me how I got it. But one of our tight ends had an obnoxious, over the top pick up truck and shit was cool with him lol— Jaleel Johnson (@leellxvii) June 6, 2020
Thank you James!! I remember when I used to wear my tank tops in the facility, I used to get called in the coaches office because I had too much tattoos and it wasnt the Iowa culture or the Iowa Way. https://t.co/gYMtSDTMKR— HaitianQ (@__haitianprince) June 6, 2020
*BLESS WITH OR WITHOUT IOWA*— HaitianQ (@__haitianprince) June 6, 2020
But....BLACK PLAYERS HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY FOR FAR TOO LONG!!!! WE DEMAND A CHANGE!!!!
Not the cars bro remember my BMW sophomore year? KF and White called me in tryna figure out how I got it.— HaitianQ (@__haitianprince) June 6, 2020
I remember whenever walking into the facility it would be difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves. As if the way you grew up was the wrong way or wasnt acceptable & that you would be judge by that and it would impact playing time.— Amani Hooker (@amanihooker37) June 6, 2020
Time for the truth: pic.twitter.com/aBeVbtfvc4— Terrance Pryor (@Tpryor51) June 6, 2020
DJ Johnson (who transferred from Iowa just a few weeks ago):
This was me. only reason its anonymous is because i was asked for a comment but id rather speak on it myself want my experiences to be justified by me not somebody reporting for me but let yall tell it. Like I said playing time was far from the reason of my transferring. https://t.co/xPYUmsm7DA— DJ JOHNSON (@DjJohnson1127) June 6, 2020
We not gone put all the blame on KF and Doyle. Postion coaches are not exempt!! The truth gone come to the light believe that https://t.co/G2uAX0J9KQ— DJ JOHNSON (@DjJohnson1127) June 6, 2020
I stand with my fellow Hawkeye Brothers advocating for a cultural shift in the Iowa Football Program. We were disproportionately represented as a result of black players leaving prematurely due to either double standards or the inability of the coaching staff to relate with our— Jordan Lomax (@jordanlomax27) June 6, 2020
culture. I have much respect for KF and other coaches on the staff as men of great integrity, principles, & morals and I am confident they have the ability be a part of the solution. As my brother @Faith_Joseph already mentioned, the change starts in the weight room— Jordan Lomax (@jordanlomax27) June 6, 2020
I can't pinpoint exactly which former player this is, but he was on the team:
lol strength n conditioning coach at Iowa CoAch DOYLE ask me did I gangbang in the offseason cause I aint run track or wrestle. Type shit is that. Pops was ready to kill em.— Stephen B (@Recklezz___) June 4, 2020
Former teammate Maurice Fleming pic.twitter.com/3YQpYt4LNK— James Daniels (@jamsdans) June 6, 2020
Coach Ferentz is one of the reasons I committed to Iowa as a high school senior. He cares, and he gets it.— Faith Ekakitie (@Faith_Joseph) June 5, 2020
However, for this program in particular, real change begins with @coach_Doyle and his Strength & Conditioning staff. https://t.co/MuSRAfABbq
From my former teammate Anthony Gair pic.twitter.com/IRVoeakB7Z— James Daniels (@jamsdans) June 6, 2020
I personally believe Doyle and Kirk from my own experiences arent inclusive and understanding of young black athletes— CoachSpearman (@6Spearman) June 6, 2020
A lot of my brothers dealt with issues and Im glad someone is speaking on it now.— Tevaun Smith (@TevaunSmith) June 6, 2020
Whoops https://t.co/5Tc9j1nz9p— Mike Daniels (@Mike_Daniels76) June 6, 2020
I got so many stories I can talk about and experiences I had and other teammates but this was one of them. pic.twitter.com/CfK3Ss1TcM— Akrum Wadley (@akrum_wadley) June 6, 2020
Tyler Devine is not a former player, but he is a member of the Iowa sports media (previously at AllHawkeyes, soon at HawkFanatic):
Just got his from a former Iowa football player who is white. Walking on egg shells is becoming a theme. pic.twitter.com/RTKx3tEEgi— Tyler Devine (@devine_tyler) June 6, 2020
Comments from Jermire Roberts, George Lewis, and Albert Young (via Rob Howe):
Comments from former Hawkeyes Jermire Roberts and George Lewis (Lew Kang) pic.twitter.com/VFa9iRHtUM— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) June 6, 2020
Their comments aren't easy to read, but that hardly matters. Hearing from the Iowa players in their own words, about their experiences, is important -- and they make it clear that the culture within the Iowa program is not healthy. There are serious flaws within that culture and a painful disparity in the way that players are treated, particularly black players. That needs to be reckoned with now.
For now, the only response from Ferentz and Iowa football has been this statement:
As a staff and as leaders, we will listen and take to heart the messages we hear. pic.twitter.com/wqg2ZoX8pk— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) June 6, 2020
That not's adequate. Criticizing the former players for breaking the cone of silence that surrounds the Iowa program by making these comments publicly isn't helpful. Listening to what the players (current and former) have to say is good (and necessary), but any blindness to these issues come across as at least partially willful. Kirk Ferentz, Chris Doyle, and the entire Iowa program have a lot to answer for at this point; dialogue alone isn't going to resolve these issues.
As Scott Dochterman points out at The Athletic ($), "culture" is vague and can mean a lot of things. But it seems clear at this point that parts of the culture within the Iowa football program are toxic and damaging for many of its members. That has to change. This conversation, like the wider national conversations that it's flowed from, is long overdue. Thank you, James Daniels, for shining a light on this issue, and thank you to the dozens of former players who have spoken out to build on Daniels' comments and to highlight their own experiences. We respect them for coming forward and for revealing their truths.