Kirk Ferentz addresses George Floyd’s death in virtual meeting with Iowa football team

Ferentz decided to speak with the team first rather than release a public statement.

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Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Robert Read, Sports Editor


Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz’s name carries a lot of weight in the Hawkeye State. It has for most of his 22 years leading the Hawkeye football program.

Several members of the Iowa athletic department, including Athletic Director Gary Barta, along with football coaches all over the country released statements recently speaking out against racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Ferentz opted to speak with his players and their families before releasing a public statement. He spoke with the team on a Zoom call Monday and a transcript of that call was released on Twitter Tuesday.

Here is Ferentz’s full message to the team.

“I want to start this meeting by talking about the events of the past week, and the reactions that have taken place here on campus, in the Midwest and around the world. I spoke about this on the voice mail you all received Saturday morning, but I feel like there is more to say.

“Some of you have commented that I haven’t had anything posted on our social media channels yet. That is deliberate. I want my first conversations about this to be with you and your families. Then it can be shared with the outside world. But you are always my first priority.

“I’m going to talk about this with you now, and then you’ll be getting an email from me so you can read them again. You can share that with your parents, family and friends if you wish.

“As you know, a man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week. He was arrested by police for suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. While he was handcuffed and laying on the ground, a police officer kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Mr. Floyd pleaded and said he could not breathe. The officer and the three other officers did nothing. Nothing. Mr. Floyd cried out for his mother. And the police officers did nothing. George Floyd later died.

“I have watched that video. It is brutal and painful. It’s heartbreaking. And the lack of action by the other officers is maddening and makes them complicit.

“George Floyd’s death sparked outrage and calls for change nationwide. You can’t be human and not be affected by that video. I’m sure that many of you felt the same way I did — heartbroken. Frustrated. Angry.

“There have been racial problems in this country for generations. There has been discrimination, resentment and mistrust for a long time. I hoped by now we would be better at relationships when it comes to race — but this week shows we have a long way to go.

“I am a white football coach. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be pulled over for driving while black or to have people cross the street because they don’t want to walk alongside of you.

“But some of your coaches have shared that experience. I know it is real and it happens.

“If things are going to change, it will be up to all of us as individuals to be a part of the change. As a team, we can help lead it.

“Here is how we’re going to make an impact — in this time of such anguish and emotion, we are going to be better listeners. Not just hearing from others but listening and trying our best to understand where another opinion is coming from.

“In our program, we talk about preparing to be the best. Here’s the truth — that’s not just as a player on a Saturday. We’re all here to prepare you to be the best version of yourself. Teaching all of you — our players how to be an impactful member of society.

“These are painful times for our nation and community. One of the most important traits a leader can demonstrate is the ability to listen. To always have an attitude of learning.

“In our program we will use this time to listen, understand and grow as individuals and as a team.

“Change will begin with us.”

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