IOWA CITY – Kirk Ferentz fielded numerous questions during his weekly Tuesday press conference today. Many pertained directly to football. Others addressed the elephant in the room.
At nearly every NFL stadium this past weekend, silent demonstrations were seen during the National Anthem. Many players, coaches, and front office staff members knelt, others locked arms, and some teams even chose to remain in the locker room during The Star-Spangled Banner.
In large part, the protests were a result of President Donald Trump’s comments when he said, in short, that any player kneeling for the anthem was a son of a b****.
The silent demonstrations, started last season by ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, are a symbolic stance against racial inequalities, police brutality, and other injustices in the United States. Many athletes are participating as a way to prove to Trump that his words will not divide the people.
Ferentz, along with presumably every head coach of every college athletic team, was asked about these demonstrations and if they could trickle down into the college rankings, specifically to the Hawkeye sideline.
“I think enough has already been said about his quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “ I read this morning that sports and politics are intertwined. I see thee world a lot differently, I guess.”
As the world continues to change, Ferentz’s way of thinking appears to be the less-popular one. Now, athletes are encouraged to use their platform to draw attention to important issues. Games are now becoming much more than games, but also a vehicle for political statements.
“My preference is we keep politics to our individual time. That’s how I look at it,” Ferentz said. “Certainly we encourage (our players) to grow, to be curious and ask questions. To me, that’s healthy. As long as you’re alive you should be doing that.”
Ferentz is often criticized – jokingly for the most part – for his “That’s football” comment that he seems to break out at least once every new conference. He uses it often to describe feelings of defeat or to explain decisions that, in hindsight, didn’t pan out. Today, he explained his view of football and how it differs from other ventures.
“The beauty of football is being able to put large groups of people from all kinds of backgrounds (together),” Ferentz said. “Race, religion, socioeconomical – and we’re all here to do one thing together, and that’s pretty neat, I think.”
His thoughts on the beauty of football help translate into his thoughts on politics and their place in football and other sports.
“To me, that’s on the outside and sports ought to be sports,” Ferentz said. “That’s kind of how I look at the world, I guess. I always thought that was the beauty of sports, quite frankly.”
It’s undeniable that sports and politics have indeed been linked together, and Ferentz seems to be aware of that.
That doesn’t mean he and his team has to partake in a demonstration.
Instead, Ferentz encourages his players to make a difference in other ways.
“Use a platform where maybe it could make a difference,” Ferentz said. “Go do community service. Go to an activist rally. Go listen to candidates talk when it’s political season… and go vote. Go vote.”
If you’re looking for some Hawkeyes to make political statements and stand for something they believe is right, you likely won’t see it on the sidelines at Spartan Stadium this Saturday. Sports aren’t the only vehicle for these statements. Lets not forget that.