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IOWA CITY — Iowa seniors Matt Hankins and Kaevon Merriweather were not afraid to speak their mind last year after allegations of racism from former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle surfaced.
Hankins shared a personal anecdote last year about the disparity of treatment he received from Doyle in comparison to his white teammates following weigh-ins after the Outback Bowl.
Merriweather delivered an honest statement to fans, saying, “I would rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them.”
At this year’s opening spring football news conference for players Tuesday, both were asked what has changed within the program.
“I think we have a little bit more voice,” Merriweather said on Tuesday. “And if we see anything that’s going on, or any changes, we’re more confident to go to coaches, and actually talk to them about those issues and see the changes within.”
In the offseason, executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Broderick Binns, established programming which invited guest speakers on unconscious bias and taught both athletes and Iowa athletics staff more about Black history.
“I think one thing that I learned that's pretty interesting is that a lot of the inventions in America have come from African Americans,” Merriweather said. “I think that's something that we don't really pay attention to. I didn’t even know that a Black person created the traffic light.”
He also listed George Washington Carver’s innovative use of peanuts and Madam C.J. Walker, the first woman self-made millionaire.
Hankins, who chose to return for his fifth year with the Hawkeyes, noted last year that “anxiety has been lifted off the shoulders of many of us,” following Doyle’s departure.
Hankins walked into the news conference with a smile on his face. He’s not just a veteran to the program, but one who might become the first to start in games for five straight years. He chose to come back.
He began by asking reporters why they got into journalism and followed with asking how many stories they averaged per week.
“I started thinking about it after practice, why don’t we switch it up today?” Hankins said. “The questions, they’re always asking us.”
Satisfied with his answers, normalcy resumed. Hankins said he chose to come back because he knew there were things he could work on, like his weight and being more physical. But most of all, it was building on the team chemistry established last year.
As a leader, though, he said while the team has moved forward from last summer, the message remains the same.
“Together, we are one,” Hankins said. “We all got different backgrounds, so not everything will be the same. But if we love and respect each other, I feel like nothing can go wrong.”
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