Former Black Iowa Football Players Claim Racism, Want $20 million & Kirk Ferentz’s Job

The systemic racism that has been so prevalent in college athletics where white men often lead, control and profit off a culture of exploiting Black student-athletes, has been under a magnifying glass ever since the George Floyd protests thrust the issues of racism, social injustice and social inequality into the forefront of our national conscience. 

This awakening forced institutions that have encouraged and supported such oppression, to rethink their past and readjust things moving forward. 

In the spirit of this new national movement, 8 former Black Iowa football players sent a letter to the university earlier this month demanding $20 million and that longtime Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta be fired over allegations of racial discrimination during their time with the program, according to The Des Moines Register.

The eight former players, per the report, sent the 21-page letter to the school on Oct. 5. They are being represented by a civil rights attorney in Tulsa, and have threatened a lawsuit against the school if their demands aren’t met by Monday. 

Dozens of former Iowa players have spoken out in recent months about their experiences playing for Ferentz in Iowa City, many of whom said they felt they were treated unfairly and were unable to be themselves on Ferentz’s teams “because they were Black. 

Many complaints were directed toward strength coach Chris Doyle, too, who was put on administrative leave and later reached a separation agreement with the school.

Ferentz admitted he had a “blind spot” in his program, and that an advisory committee would be formed to help improve the culture within the program. Reports, however, alleged that Ferentz was briefed on racial issues within his program more than a year before the complaints surfaced.”

The eight players are defensive back Maurice Flemming, receiver Andre Harris, running back Marcel Joly, receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, linebacker Aaron Mends, running back Jonathan Parker, linebacker Reggie Spearman and running back Akrum Wadley. 

The players also demanded: 

  • A permanent Black male senior administrator within the athletic department
  • Mandatory anti-racist training for staff members
  • A board of advisers with Black players and anti-racist professionals to oversee the program and tuition waivers for any Black athlete who didn’t graduate, according to The Des Moines Register.

Iowa president Bruce Harreld, who conveniently announced his plans to retire early this month, responded to the players in a statement on Sunday and showed very little remorse or understanding for what his Black athletes have endured under his watch.  

“We appreciate some former athletes sharing insights on their experience while at the University of Iowa,” Harreld said. “Many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed. And to be clear, any student-athlete that has left the university and did not obtain their degree is welcome to return, and we are here to support them.

“There are several demands outlined in the letter, and we are proud of the efforts made to date. We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete. However, the university rejects the demands for money and personnel changes.”

Ferentz has been with the Hawkeyes since 1999 and is the longest-tenured coach in college football. 

After 21 long seasons, it’s probably time for him to step down as the President did. Their way of running things is outdated and doesn’t fit with the new progressive age that is upon us, where players are treated as more than livestock to drive money and prestige to the coaches and administration 

“I am disappointed to receive this type of demand letter,” Ferentz said in a statement on Sunday night. “Due to the threat of litigation, I am not able to address the specific comments made by our former players. As you know, this past summer we made adjustments to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our student-athletes. These changes include both policies and rules, as well as an expanded leadership council of current players and a new advisory committee composed of former players.

“I am deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye Football program reach their full potential on and off the field. My focus is now on our current players who are preparing for our first game this Saturday.”

If Iowa wanted to disprove the many accusations about the racist culture it has had for decades, then firing Ferentz is an easy first step

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