Ferentz praises Faith Ekakitie, police after misunderstanding

Mark A Emmert

CHICAGO — Less than 48 hours after he found himself facing four Iowa City police officers with guns drawn, Faith Ekakitie didn’t even mention the episode to his football coach.

“I’d seen Faith (Friday) morning at workouts. He didn’t say a word to me,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz recounted Tuesday at Big Ten Conference football media days. “That’s Faith. He’s just kind of a steady guy.”

Ferentz found out what had happened to his senior defensive tackle later Friday via email. The frightening incident, which Ekakitie detailed eloquently in a Facebook post, occurred last Wednesday afternoon and has received national attention this week. Ekakitie, playing the game Pokemon Go in an Iowa City park with his headphones on, was unknowingly about to be caught up in the search for a bank robber. Ekakitie matched the description of a large black man (he is 6-foot-3, 290 pounds) wearing black clothes. He couldn’t hear the police approaching him or their instructions, which led them to draw their guns.

Faith Ekakitie

Fortunately, no harm came of the situation, which lasted six minutes and led Ekakitie to reach this conclusion:

"Not all police officers are out to get you, but at the same time, not all people who fit a criminal profile are criminals."

Ekakitie has declined further comment on the events. But two of his teammates here said he had spoken to them about what occurred.

“He said he was scared for his life and things like that just because of what was going on, but at the same time he kind of had a little giggle in there just because of the position he was in,” Iowa cornerback Desmond King said.

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Linebacker Josey Jewell added, “I think it’s just kind of a crazy thing. You wonder what could have happened if maybe he didn’t hear them for a little bit longer. I’m glad the Iowa City police handled it correctly and everything was well.”

Ferentz praised both his player and the police officers for keeping their cool during what could have been a charged encounter.

Ferentz used the occasion to discuss what he sees as a larger issue in society.

“We’ve got a lot of sides right now, but people don’t want to talk or share ideas. The concept of teamwork, I think, is eroded in our country. We’re still, by far, the best country in the world. But teamwork is so critical in sports, it’s so critical in a family, in any successful organization,” he said.

“I think we all just need to talk to each other a little more, and listen a little bit more, too, and find some middle ground. I’m a coach, and as a parent, and I see the good in people — young people, certainly. And sometimes you’ve just got to bring it out. And it all starts with talking and sharing ideas.”

As for Ekakitie’s sharing of his experience on Facebook, Ferentz noted that that wasn’t cleared by him or his staff, but that it didn’t need to be. He has imposed a Twitter ban on his players, but not other forms of social media.

“If everybody handled the social media in the same fashion Faith did, we’d have no restrictions at all. He’s really to be commended,” Ferentz said.