Iowa Football

Iowa football has an uplifting day on social media, but the internal discussion on race continues

Iowa put restrictions on players' Twitter accounts Thursday, by Sunday night, those were wiped away, leading to a Big Monday for current players

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz answers a question during a Holiday Bowl press conference in San Diego, Calif., on
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz answers a question during a Holiday Bowl press conference in San Diego, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Current Iowa football players were allowed to use the social media app Twitter without restrictions Monday.

This was totally a good thing, but it did come with a complication that was quickly clarified. The complication and the clarification do sum up what’s happening to the Hawkeyes program, which has faced four days of heavy scrutiny after black former players started tweeting about racial incidents and loss of identity within the walls of the program.

Many of the tweets centered on strength coach Chris Doyle, Ferentz’s strength coach for his 21 seasons in Iowa City. Doyle, 51 and the highest-paid strength coach in college football ($800,000 per year) remains on administrative leave as an independent review begins to take direction. Doyle is accused of using racial taunts against black players.

He issued a statement Sunday on Twitter, denouncing racial charges against him and defending his record.

“There are countless men of character who are better fathers, husbands, activists, leaders and contributors to society due to their experience at Iowa Football,” Doyle wrote. “The record will show this.”

Monday was a better day for the Iowa program on Twitter.

As the Iowa program continues to struggle with racial tension, Iowa players took to Twitter and pledged love and support for their African American teammates. Many of the players tweeted as Hawkeyes for the first time. Instead of a “hello, world,” the players immediately went to the topic of the day.

Safety Kaevon Merriweather, a Belleville, Mich., native: "If you cannot support us right now with this movement and with our team taking a knee during the national anthem, DO NOT support us during the football season.

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“DO NOT watch our games on TV. DO NOT come up to us when you want photos. DO NOT ask us to give your kids autographs. DON’T COME TO US EXPECTING US TO DO FOR YOU WHEN YOU CAN’T SUPPORT THE BLACK ATHLETES ON THIS TEAM AND THE DECISIONS WE MAKE AS A TEAM.

“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, then 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them.”

A lot of the players who tweeted used a graphic background provided by the school. Some players got to the notes app in their phones. Whatever internet scrap paper they could find went up on the Iowa football Twitter account.

Safety Jack Koerner, from Des Moines: “Today could have very possibly been the most powerful and impactful day in Iowa football history. I’ve never been more proud of my teammates and wholeheartedly believe positive change is in the works. I live and breathe Hawkeye football and stand with my brothers to take action.”

Freshman wide receiver Desmond Huston, a Raytown, Mo., native: “If people killed and oppressed your people for 400 years how fed up would you be? How would you feel? This isn’t white vs. black or blacks vs. cops, this is right vs. wrong. Be part of the change and things will be better. If you love Hawkeye football, you will be part of the change.”

Monday's tweets from Iowa football players

Kicker Keith Duncan, native of Weddington, N.C.: “Iowa football got better today.”

In the past, Hawkeyes have been allowed to use Facebook and Instagram. Players have been allowed Twitter accounts, but they weren’t permitted to openly tweet. One of the easiest signs in the last five or six seasons that a Hawkeye has left the program was a tweet. Often, there are some 1,000 days between tweets.

This change isn’t going to be easy. The racial friction began Friday afternoon. Head coach Kirk Ferentz had just finished a video conference with reporters. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and oppression. The kneeling expanded in the NFL and moved into the college ranks.

Ferentz was asked about it. He said he wants his entire team kneeling or standing at attention. Former Hawkeye and Chicago Bear James Daniels tweeted that the racial inequities within the program needed to be addressed. Several black former Hawkeyes followed with their stories, including several outlining incidents with Doyle. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz also was mentioned more than a few times.

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On Monday, Ferentz issued a statement on George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department and racial issues. The statement ended with “Change will begin with us.”

First the complication and then the clarification.

On Thursday, Ferentz met with the team with Twitter on the list of topics. He agreed to allow players to use Twitter, but with stipulations. The Twitter policy was to be one preapproved tweet sent to a coach or staff member by Sunday at 5. Sometime between Thursday and Sunday night the conditions were erased, and Iowa players were allowed free access to Twitter. Iowa clarified the Twitter status Monday afternoon.

The Hawkeyes returned to campus Monday and met as a group for the first time since the COVID-19 quarantine began. Monday also was supposed to be the start of workouts. Instead, the team talked. Through various sources, the meetings were described as tense, but productive. Uncomfortable, but productive.

Meetings will continue Tuesday.

Raimond Braithwaite, who’s served as Doyle's top assistant for 16 seasons, has assumed the strength and conditioning role for the Hawkeyes. One former player described Braithwaite as “soft-spoken, respected and very knowledgeable.”

A look at Doyle’s contract with Iowa shows if he’s fired for cause, he likely would be due full salary with incentives through June 2022. Iowa assistants who’ve been with the program for five seasons are offered two-year deals. Doyle’s current contract runs through June 30. It’s likely a new deal has already been signed.

Also Monday, the UI announced it has conducted 237 COVID-19 tests and found one case of the virus. Testing began May 29 and includes student-athletes, coaches and staff.

Following the positive test result, protocol established by UI Athletics and medical staff, including contract tracing procedures, is being followed for safety. This mandatory protocol also includes isolation for the individuals who test positive, and quarantine for those individuals who might have been exposed to someone with the virus.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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