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The Iowa football coach speaks on June 3 about his role in speaking out on racism and police violence, as well as what he's trying to learn. Hawk Central

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Kirk Ferentz has responded with a statement to dozens of black former players who have used social media to point out racial discrimination in the Iowa football program.

“I am saddened to hear these comments from some of our former players,” the 22nd-year Hawkeye coach said. “While I wish they had reached out to us directly, I am thankful that these players decided to share their experiences now. As I said earlier this week, the best way to affect change is by listening. I have started reaching out to them on an individual basis to hear their stories first hand. 

“Making change that matters involves an open dialogue and possibly some tough conversations. I am glad to have the opportunity to do just that. As a staff and as leaders, we will listen and take to heart the messages we hear.”

Former offensive lineman James Daniels, who is now a starter for the Chicago Bears, delivered perhaps the most direct charge by tweeting Friday evening, “There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program," said Daniels, who was a Hawkeye from 2015 to 2017. "Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”

That message was followed by numerous others and echoed one from former defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie, who was with the program from 2012 to 2016, on Friday morning. Ekakitie pointed blame specifically at Chris Doyle, the 21st-year Ferentz assistant and the highest-paid strength and conditioning coach in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is one of the reasons I committed to Iowa as a high school senior. He cares, and he gets it,” Ekakitie wrote. “However, for this program in particular, real change begins with Coach Doyle and his Strength & Conditioning staff.”

There was agreement from some of the biggest names in Iowa football, including longtime NFL defensive lineman Mike Daniels.

Recent former running back Toren Young summed it up like this: “If you are a black player you quickly learn to conform to white culture (when in the building) at Iowa and if you don’t, you won’t make it very long.”

Former defensive back Manny Rugamba provided two examples of racism exhibited by Doyle.

Former linebacker Aaron Mends had some thoughtful and powerful words:

Amani Hooker of the Tennessee Titans, the 2018 Big Ten defensive back of the year, said it was difficult for black players to be themselves.

And that was just the beginning.

One former player said Doyle mocked him and made a tasteless joke about blacks not liking water.

Another said his mental health was damaged by the racism he experienced.

And this is just a small sampling.

Stay tuned for more coverage on this developing story.

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