In a first for a major college football team, members of the University of Iowa football team have gone on social media asking fans to support their right to engage in peaceful social justice protest, i.e. kneeling during the national anthem, or don’t bother supporting the Hawkeyes.
Sophomore defensive back Kaevon Merriweather June 8 posted an extended message on Twitter telling Hawkeye fans that belief in social justice extends beyond wishful thinking.
“If you can not support us right now with this movement and with our team taking a knee during the national anthem, DO NOT support us during the football season,” Merriweather tweeted. “DO NOT watch our games on TV. DO NOT come up to us when you want photos. DO NOT ask us to give your kids autographs. DON’T COME TO US EXPECTING US TO DO FOR YOU WHEN YOU CAN’T SUPPORT THE BLACK ATHLETES ON THIS TEAM AND THE DECISIONS WE MAKE AS A TEAM. I would rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for, than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them.”
The message, which was posted by several Hawkeye players on Instagram, follows allegations of a racist culture at the school for black players, in addition to racist comments made by suspended strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
African-Americans make up 4% of Iowa’s total population of 3.17 million, while comprising more than 50% of the football team.
The Hawkeyes compete in the Western division of the Big Ten Conference and play their home games in Iowa City at Kinnick Stadium, with a capacity of 69,250. The Hawkeyes are currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, who is in his 21st season as the head coach and is the longest current tenured head coach in NCAA Division I FBS.