A number of Black former Iowa Hawkeyes football players have spoken out against the Kirk Ferentz's program in recent months, and on Monday former All-Big Ten cornerback Amari Spievey said that program wanted its Black athletes to be like "white Iowa kids."
"We couldn't wear earrings, we couldn't wear hats, we had to dress a certain way," he told Adam Rittenberg and Michele Steele of ESPN. "They wanted us to be white Iowa kids. [They] wanted us to fit that mold. We couldn't be us. We had to be like them."
"There's been a systematic issue there. Whether they've known about it, or whether or not how deep these accusations are, there are truths to all of them," former wide receiver Marvin McNutt added. "The Black players feel [coaches and staff] didn't always have our backs, and they didn't really understand our culture, or like it. I'm glad to see some of these things could actually have a voice at a time it needed one."
In June, as marches and demonstrations happened around the United States and the world in protest of systemic racism and police brutality, a number of former players came forward on social media and shared examples of unfair treatment against Black members of the Hawkeyes:
"I've talked with guys and they talked about how they were made to conform to what Coach Ferentz wanted or what they expected white players to be like," former offensive lineman Dace Richardson told Rittenberg and Steele. "We had a lot of guys on our team that had personalities and they weren't allowed to be their natural selves. I never had issues with that because I kind of just conformed to what the team wanted."
The issues reportedly extend beyond the football culture. According to the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California, the school's 40 percent graduation rate for Black athletes ranked 60th out of the 65 Power 5 schools and last in the Big Ten between 2014 and 2018.
And while 30 percent of the football program is comprised of Black athletes, just 3.3 percent of the school's population is Black. Additionally, Ferentz has only had two Black assistants in 11 of his seasons and has never had a Black offensive or defensive coordinator in his 21-year tenure, per ESPN.
And between 2009-19, only 10 Black players represented the school at Big Ten Media day, fewer than any other school in the conference.
"It was almost like they were trying to portray the perfect white guy that represented Iowa football," former cornerback Jordan Lomax said on the Washed Up Walkons podcast (h/t Rittenberg and Steele). "Guys were like, 'If I want to go to Big Ten media days ... I've got to at least dress different or act different or be different, because I'm trying to get to that level.' We see that. We're like, 'Why can't one of us go? Why can't more of us go?'
"It's just a constant theme. And that kills guys psychologically."