Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during Big Ten Football Media Days at McCormick Place Conference Center in Chicago on Monday, July 24, 2017. Ferentz and players Sean Welsh, Matt Vandeberg, and Josie Jewell represented the Hawkeyes at the conference. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Letter to the editor: Ferentz isn’t racist for separating sports, politics

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Ferentz isn’t a racist by choosing to coach his team on the morals of teamwork, friendships, and victory.

When the community is clearly divided over political views, it’s important to avoid claims that don’t have evidence to back them up. I am referring to the Guest Opinion that ran in The Daily Iowan on Monday titled “Ferentz’s comments entrenched in racism,” pertaining to Coach Kirk Ferentz’s opinion about players’ kneeling during the national anthem.

It is a shame when the term racism is thrown around as a way to make a point. This is not something that should be taken half-heartedly, as it may cast a shadow over a person or issue without any evidence, information, or supporting documentation.

I witnessed Ferentz’s statement on Sept. 26, and in my opinion there is not one shred of evidence that supports or indicates racism. What his statement does support is team, camaraderie, and relationships between coaches and players. As quoted by Ferentz, “The beauty of sports is the relationships between athletes and coaches and the camaraderie on the team.” He is referring to an inclusion of ALL athletes and coaches, represented by all races and genders. Ferentz has a diverse staff and team reflective of a man that does not have a racist bone in his body. The use of the term “racism” to describe the actions of Ferentz is insulting to the University of Iowa and the Iowa football program. The blatant twisting and misinterpretation of his statement as an effort to fit someone’s personal agenda is concerning and unfortunate.

If you actually listened to the press conference, Ferentz stated, “We encourage our college-age students to be curious and ask questions, that’s healthy. This is a time when we dress alike, act alike, what they do on campus as long as it’s not illegal or immoral, I’m all for it. That’s on the outside — sports on the inside.”

How is that entrenched in racism? Ferentz wants to separate sports and politics. Frankly, in today’s climate, it is refreshing to hear that, because sports should be an escape for kids, students, and adults of all ages. Every time we turn on the television, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper, we hear about the negativity of politics, crime, and the possibility of war. Ferentz wants his student-athletes to focus on teamwork, friendships, and victory while keeping the “drama” off the field, away from his team, and away from the loyal Hawkeye fans.

As a leader in the Hawkeye football program for more than 20 years, Ferentz has shown himself to be someone who cares about others time and time again.

Let me remind everyone of just one instance where Ferentz showed us all the man that he truly is. As stated in an Aug. 23 DI article titled “Ferentz family make a $1 million donation to fund neonatal research at Iowa’s Children’s Hospital.” I wonder how many Guest Opinions were written about that? His support of the Children’s Hospital is just one example of the impact and love Ferentz has for UI and the Iowa City community.

When media started reporting on NFL players who knelt during the national anthem last year, police brutality became a hot topic across America. This season, the conversations expanded out of control and people forgot what should take priority.

Let’s not forget the police who protect us on a daily basis.

Last month, I was just feet away from the shooting that took place on the Pedestrian Mall. Innocent UI students scrambled for safety when “groups” from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids made their brawl public and threatened the safety of our community. As I, and hundreds of other students, began to run from the gunfire, police officers ran toward the gunmen to protect us. These police officers have families who sit at home praying they come home every night. Sometimes they don’t. I can’t count how many funerals my father has attended for fallen police officers because someone took her or his life while he fought to protect us.

These divisive unsubstantiated comments do not bring people together.

They separate us.

[Note from DITV Sports Director and author Mary Kate Herion: I stand for the national anthem because it represents how great our country is and it shows respect for all of the men and women who fight for our freedom every single day. I hear other perspectives and views on this topic, I read the columns, and I hear people out. But as a nation, I feel that we should stand together in this moment if nothing else.]

— Mary Kate Herion

University of Iowa senior

Daily Iowan TV Sports Director

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