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Iowa State guard Rasir Bolton says he transferred from Penn State after Pat Chambers made 'noose' remark


Travis Hines  |  Ames Tribune

Rasir Bolton transferred from Penn State after coach Pat Chambers “referenced a noose around my neck,” the now-Iowa State guard said Monday in a statement released on social media.

“A noose; symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed at Africa Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism,” Bolton wrote in the statement. “Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”

Bolton spent one season with the Nittany Lions, averaging 11.6 points in 26.9 minutes per game, before transferring to Iowa State in the spring of 2019. He applied for a waiver from the NCAA to exempt him from the usually-mandated sit-out season upon a transfer. That waiver, the grounds of which were never before publicly disclosed, was eventually granted by the NCAA, and Bolton went on to 14.7 points and became a crucial player this past season for the Cyclones.

“I reported (the noose comment) immediately to my academic advisor,” Bolton said in his statement. “I confronted coach Chambers. I spoke directly with the AD’s office myself. My parents contacted the AD’s office in writing and by phone. My parents drove the five hours to Penn State to meet with the AD’s office and coach Chambers more than once. 

“During this time, coach Chambers admitted to what he said.”

Chambers released his own statement late Monday morning.“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir and the Bolton family for what I said,” Chambers wrote. “I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I made was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable. 

“I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”

Penn State also announced it will conduct a “climate survey” in the athletic department, will create “an Intercollegiate Athletics Response Team to more effectively address issues of concerns affecting the culture, climate and experience of the Intercollegiate Athletics community” and implement other new initiatives in response to the incident.

“Patrick Chambers deeply regrets the words he chose and understands the pain he caused Rasir Bolton and his family,” Penn State vice president for intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour said in a statement released by the school. “Patrick has stated that he is committed to educating himself and he is actively working to learn and grow, which will be imperative to his future success at Penn State.”

Bolton said that he was given a phone number by the school for a psychologist, and “was taught ‘ways to deal with coach Chambers’ personality type.’" Bolton said that Chambers never apologized for the remark, and that “subtle repercussions followed,” such as teammates being told Bolton couldn’t be trusted. He also accused Chambers of “another subtle insult” when Chambers told Bolton he was “‘really impressed with how well-spoken and organized my parents were.’”

Penn State took responsibility for sometimes failing to create an environment free of racial inequities.

“Our Black community of students, faculty and staff must have the opportunity to feel safe, respected and welcome at Penn State, and clearly our past actions and words have not always contributed positively to that goal,” Barbour said. “It is our obligation to embrace all in our community regardless of differences — the color of their skin, their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or gender should not matter. Our community of student-athletes, staff and coaches is stronger because of the diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives they all bring to our competitive venues and classrooms. 

“As leaders, our coaches must model the values of our institution and I remain steadfast in continuing to strengthen the culture of acceptance within our Penn State Athletics Department.

Chambers said he has found that he has “much more to learn.”

“It is critically important for me to recognize my responsibility in better understanding the experiences of others and I am committed to doing the necessary work required to do just that,” Chambers wrote. “I love our student-athletes and want each of them to grow and succeed, individually, and as part of our team. I promise that I will keep listening. I will keep learning, and continue our conversations within our team and our Penn State family.”

Bolton’s statement comes during a time when student-athletes across the country are coming forward with stories of inequitable treatment and racist actions from those in power in programs nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after being pinned down by the neck by a police officer. 

Scores of University of Iowa football players have made allegations of racial inequities, and strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle was removed from the program as a result. Iowa has hired a law firm to conduct a review of coach Kirk Ferentz’s program.

Other instances and allegations have come at Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State, among others. The state of Mississippi just passed legislation to change the state flag, which had a depiction of the flag of the Confederacy, after pressure from the SEC and NCAA.

"Ra felt impelled to tell his story to try to help bring about change and bring awareness to some situations some people go through," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said Monday. "He did that, and one thing I just wanted Ra and his family to know is I support them, I’m here for them."

Blake Hinson said last month one of the reasons he left the University of Mississippi to transfer to Iowa State was due to the state flag and its racist origins.

“I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last,” Bolton wrote. “Everyone's position to speak out isn’t the same, so I am only speaking for myself. There is a serious need for change in the way players are protected and helped across the country when faced with these situations.

“Surface level resources are not good enough. In most cases it is the coach who is protected, while the player is left to deal with it or leave."