AMES — During this time of social unrest, athletes have used their voices and their platforms to speak out against injustices they’ve experienced or injustices they’ve seen other people experience.
Iowa State men’s basketball player Rasir Bolton tweeted Monday morning about why he transferred out of Penn State after his freshman season. According to The Undefeated, Penn State Coach Pat Chambers made the comment, “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”
Chambers confirmed he made the comment to Bolton and wrote an apology on Twitter.
Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm confirmed to reporters Monday during a Zoom news conference that Bolton was able to get his immediate eligibility waiver from the NCAA because of the comments Chambers made to him.
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“I knew a lot of the story because that was part of the waiver process,” Prohm said. “I sat down and talked about that with him and his family when he transferred here but we kept that internally. Talking with Rasir and his dad over the last week or two, Rasir felt compelled to tell his story to try and help bring about positive change and bring awareness to situations that people go through. The thing I wanted Rasir and his family to know is that I’m here for them and I support them.”
Prohm wants all of his players to feel like they have a platform to speak out and express what they’re going through.
He has had regular Zoom meetings with his players since everything got shut down and toward the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, he set up a speaker each week to join the Zoom meetings and talk with the team.
“The Monday after the George Floyd killing, we met as a team and we talked,” Prohm said. “That Thursday, we had one of the speakers and I drove home that day, talked to my staff and I told them, ‘Man, I don’t feel good about having the speakers. Right now, everything needs to be internal and talk and communicate and learn about one another. We need to open up and give them a platform to talk about what they’re going through and how they feel.’
“We changed then and there.”
Now, the Zoom calls center around social injustice and empowering the players.
The Big 12 basketball coaches all came together and made Election Day a mandatory day off.
“The biggest thing we all need to do, starting with me, is we need to listen better,” Prohm said. “We need to learn the importance of taking Election Day off, learn if it’s better to vote in your college community or is it better for you to absentee vote in your hometown community? Our guys have done an excellent job over the weeks when we’ve had our Zoom meetings and group talks of sharing how they’re feeling about different issues.
“That’s one thing I hadn’t talked to our guys about before — making sure they get to the polls to vote, where to vote, voting absentee. Right now, everybody should be trying to learn as much as possible.”
Prohm is leaning on his players as well as his assistant coaches right now. Three of Iowa State’s assistants — Micah Byers, William Small and Daniyal Robinson — are Black and all three are leading what Prohm is calling “pods.”
“They all lead the pods and we cover a variety of topics,” Prohm said. “I think that’s been really healthy for the players as well as the coaches. And it’s helped me because it has challenged me to learn and to really, really understand. We all need to understand and grow. Hopefully we’re helping our guys do that as well and I think we are so far.
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“And we need to continue this because it’s not just today, it’s about next week, it’s about November and January and next March. It’s about figuring out ways to bring change because we all know there is much needed change.”
Bolton hasn’t been the only Iowa State player to use his voice and platform since Floyd’s killing.
Prohm said Bolton, George Conditt, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Nate Jenkins — as well as a few of his assistants — have participated in peaceful protests.
The players Iowa State fans remember fondly aren’t just great on the court.
“Personality is huge — that’s why guys like (Georges) Niang, Naz (Mitrou-Long), Monte (Morris), Matt (Thomas), Tyrese (Haliburton) have such an unbelievable connection to the community,” Prohm said. “Those guys are very, very mature and experienced. Jalen has been phenomenal in our team meetings.
“These guys have a platform and they need to utilize it to change the things that they want to see changed.”
Prohm said he’s in total support of his guys helping to bring about positive change.
“I think it’s great,” Prohm said. “We all know there’s much needed change that needs to happen in this country. These 17-to-23-year-olds are our future.
“My players and my staff, they’re all going through a lot of different things and I can’t experience what they’ve experienced. That’s why I have to be an awesome listener.”