49ers star George Kittle supports former Iowa players speaking out against racial disparities

Former Iowa tight end and current San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle released a statement on Saturday supporting former Hawkeyes who spoke out about “racial disparities” within the program during their time there. Earlier on Saturday, it was announced that the school had placed strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave pending an investigation amid the allegations

“I write to offer my support and affirmation to my former teammates and other individuals who played football at the University of Iowa,” Kittle said in the tweet. “Recently they have shared their stories of mistreatment and racism that they experienced while on the Iowa football team. I may not have directly walked in their shoes, but I tied my cleats next to them for 5 years. Like most things in life, it was the relationships with my teammates that made Iowa Football so special to me. The lessons I learned from them as well as Coach Ferentz and Coach LaVar Woods will stay with me throughout my life. My heart aches for my Iowa teammates, my brothers, and my friends. I want them to know that I stand with them, support them, and applaud them for having the courage to speak up and start this difficult conversation. A conversation that I will be listening to and I hope all others listen to as well.

“Over the past week we have seen many different faces of this kind of mistreatment of Blacks in America. Certainly the realm of college athletics has its own stories to tell on racism and the mistreatment of Black athletes. I stand with them and support them as I do others who have faced similar treatment in other settings. We are on the difficult road to hearing these painful stories, learning more, understanding more, and working to make change in order to create a better country in which Blacks are treated fairly, equally, and without oppression or discrimination. I am listening and am available for any of my former teammates or others who have played at Iowa who wish to share their stories with me.”

The stories of former players were shared via social media and led by former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels, who now plays for the Chicago Bears. Many of the stories from Daniels and former Hawkeyes centered on Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Their stories led to Kirk Ferentz taking to Twitter on Saturday to announce that Doyle had been placed on administrative leave pending an independent investigation.

“I’ve spoken with [coach Doyle] about the allegations posted on social media,” Ferentz said in the video. “They’re troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players. Therefore, coach Doyle has been placed on administrative review immediately, while an independent review can take place. He and I agree that all parties have to have their voices heard, and then a decision about how we move forward will take place.

“There’s been a call for a cultural shift in our program. I’m creating an advisory committee, chaired by a former player, and comprised of current and former players, as well as departmental staff. This will be a diverse group that will be able to share without judgment so that we can all examine where we are at today, and how we can have a better environment tomorrow.”

Kittle played at Iowa from 2013-16 and spent a two seasons as a teammate of James Daniels. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and has become one of the best tight ends in the league, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last season.

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