By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the first time Saturday, some members of the Iowa football team were photographed kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.
It was a powerful moment, in which head coach Kirk Ferentz stood with his right hand on his heart while his left hand rested on the shoulder of freshman running back LeShon Williams, who was kneeling.
“A lot of things have changed this past year, probably in our whole country,” Ferentz said. “As it pertains to us, as of last Tuesday, we had three very direct conversations about the topic, and the point that I came to is that what the our leadership group decided.”
Ferentz said in the past that he wanted his team to either stand or kneel as a team during the anthem.
But after multiple conversations with his team in the wake of the death of George Floyd in May and the accusations of racial inequality within his program, Ferentz changed his tune.
Ferentz’s eyes were also opened by the opinion of a Navy veteran.
“We had great conversation, thoughtful dialogue, and shared a letter with a veteran who saw it one way and then also our team, our entire team was on a Zoom call with a 20-year Seal who also had two administrations in the White House, I think, and he had a very different opinion,” Ferentz said.
“Long story short, the conversation was great, and what we all decided was we’re going to respect each other’s opinions on the topic, and to me that means doing things as a team. The dialogue was outstanding, and the key point was everybody said what they felt, but everybody also agreed that we’re going to have respect for each other’s opinions, and that’s really quite something, something our country is badly in need of right now, just a little bit more listening and a little bit more civil conversation.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our leadership group, not only those meetings but the other meetings we’ve had. They’ve been tremendous, and I think that’s what you saw today. I think we’re all on the same page there, and I don’t know what else you could ask for as a coach that way.”