With social media ban lifted, Iowa football players are being heard

Current Iowa players said Friday that using Twitter and others platforms allows them to have a voice.


Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Kaevon Merriweather speaks at a press conference at the Kenyon Football Practice Field on Friday, June 12th, 2020. Merriweather along with players Ivory Kelly-Martin, Keith Duncan and coach Kirk Ferentz, spoke to the press about political standings and solidarity in the current state of civil unrest. (Tate Hildyard/ The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz lifted the program’s longstanding ban on Twitter June 6 amid the conversations going on around the country surrounding the death of George Floyd and the allegations from former players of racial disparities within the program.

It didn’t take long for players to speak up.

Redshirt sophomore safety Kaevon Merriweather released a statement on Twitter June 8 that garnered significant attention.

 “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’s statement said. “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.” 

Merriweather, along with Keith Duncan and Ivory Kelly-Martin, was one of three Iowa players made available to the media Friday. He said the statement he released earlier this week was meant to let Iowa fans and the community know that the team will be together as one this season. 

The Belleville, Michigan, native also clarified his statement Friday, saying that the team had not made any final decision as to whether it would kneel during the national anthem next season. He said he expects Iowa fans to support the team through whatever decisions it makes.

“Any movement that we do decide to support, any step that we do decide to make as a team — we want [the fan’s] support backing us every step of the way,” Merriwether said. “Not only off the football field, but when we’re off the field. When we’re in class, on the streets, driving our cars, we want support day in and day out.”

Merriweather’s Tweet drew a mixed reaction from Iowa fans.

Many expressed support for Merriweather’s comments, but several also said they would not watch any games if the team decided to kneel during the national anthem.

“I expected to get a little bit of backlash,” Merriweather said. “But the support from the Iowa fans was truly amazing. I had more positive comments than I did negative. And that really shows the amount of support this team has from the Iowa fans.”

Several other Iowa players have made statements and voiced their opinions on Twitter this week with the ban lifted.

Following a team meeting Monday, senior Iowa kicker Keith Duncan released his own statement and Tweeted, “Iowa football got better today.” He’s also voiced his opinions on pizza toppings and popular television shows.

“I’m super annoying on Twitter already,” Duncan said. “… It’s been fun so far. You can interact with people you don’t see everyday. It’s cool to have our personality out there on social media.”

Ferentz said that he prevented players from using Twitter to try and protect them, but realizes now that was a mistake.

“Our players could already use Instagram, but I’ve been educated,” Ferentz said. “It was a stupid policy from that standpoint. The designed intent was to help protect our players. That’s a parental instinct, a coaching instinct. You want to protect your players. Certain things just show you that you need to allow players to have more freedom and more expression.”