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Hawkeyes search for unified anthem stance

Hawkeyes search for unified anthem stance

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Iowa defensive lineman Jack Kallenberger (97), defensive end Anthony Nelson (98) and defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) stand for the national anthem before a 2018 game at Kinnick Stadium.

IOWA CITY — When Iowa football players discuss what to do this fall when the national anthem is being played, the only consensus so far has been that there is no consensus.

Members of the Hawkeye Leadership Group find themselves wrestling with an issue coach Kirk Ferentz believes has no easy or simple solution.

The topic filled an hour of discussion last week when Ferentz met with the 33 players who are part of the group which meets regularly to discuss matters impacting the team.

Ferentz said by the time the meeting ended there was no agreement reached about what, if anything, players should do during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner prior to games during the upcoming season.

Some Hawkeyes believe that they should be able to take a knee as a silent protest of the way Black Americans have been treated by law enforcement officers, a movement which gained traction following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

Others believe they should continue to stand as Iowa players have traditionally stood along the sideline while the anthem has been played prior to kickoff.

The Hawkeyes could also opt to remain in the locker room as the anthem is played, as some other college teams have done in recent years.

Ferentz has said that he will support whatever decision his players make, but as has been the case throughout his first 21 seasons at Iowa, he wants the Hawkeyes to be unified in however they end up going about it.

The Iowa coach wants more discussion within the leadership group and he also expects to discuss the matter with the entire team at some point before the Hawkeyes take the field for the first game of a season that remains without a schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferentz described the conversation within the Hawkeye Leadership Group meeting as healthy.

“There was discussion on both sides of the topic, and the one thing I took away from the meeting is that I don’t think there is a right answer,’’ Ferentz said.

Ferentz understands that the passion extends beyond the confines of the Iowa football complex.

He received plenty of feedback from fans after Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather suggested on Twitter that it was the fans’ duty to support the decisions made by Hawkeye players no matter what if they chose to kneel during the anthem.

“I can tell you from the amount of emails that I get and the letters that I get, it is a very hot-button topic,’’ Ferentz said. “There is no question about that.’’

Iowa players get that, too.

Senior linebacker Djimon Colbert welcomed not only the chance to speak on the subject, but appreciated the ability to listen to what his teammates had to say.

“To be able to come out and talk about that as young men and be respectful and to be able to hear each other, that was the most important thing,’’ Colbert said.

Ferentz said the discussion which took place during the Hawkeye Leadership Group meeting was businesslike.

“There was a lot of listening going on, a lot of good discussion. But most evident was there was a lot of good respect for each other,’’ Ferentz said.

“What I witnessed in that hour was what you’re looking for. The foundation of good teams is honoring each other’s opinions, honoring each other’s beliefs and to do so with respect. That’s quite frankly what I took away from that meeting.’’


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