A former Penn State University men’s basketball player says that racially insensitive comments by head coach Pat Chambers caused him to transfer away from the program in April 2019.
Rasir Bolton discussed the circumstances surrounding his transfer in a Twitter post Monday, saying, “No one ever stops to consider that there is more to a college athlete than the sport. We are human, we are young men and women, and in my case, I am a young black man FIRST.
“A ‘noose’ around my neck is why I left Penn State. Head Coach Patrick Chambers, the day after his one-game suspension [for pushing a player] in January 2019, in talking to me referenced a ‘noose’ around my neck. A noose; symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed as African Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism. Due to other interactions with Coach, I know this was no slip of the tongue.”
Bolton said he confronted Chambers, reported the comments to his academic advisor, spoke with athletic director Sandy Barbour and had his parents meet with Chambers and the AD’s office. Bolton claims Chambers admitted to the comments but never apologized. Bolton said the university gave him a psychologist’s phone number and taught him “ways to deal with Coach Chambers’ personality type.”
Bolton recently spoke with The Undefeated, which published an article about how this type of cultural incompetence is common among NCAA coaches and leaders. Chambers told The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington that he “didn’t realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that.”
Barbour released a statement Monday, saying, “Patrick Chambers deeply regrets the words he chose and understands the pain he caused Rasir Bolton and his family. 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.
“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 detailed several steps Penn State will take to become more inclusive. The athletic department will conduct an Intercollegiate Athletics climate survey, establish an Intercollegiate Athletics Response Team, provide educational opportunities, collaborate with the Student-Athlete Advisory Board’s Welfare Committee, and contribute to the efforts of Penn State’s Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety.
Bolton averaged 11.6 points per game as a freshman guard at Penn State in 2018-19, then transferred and was immediately eligible to average 14.7 points and 2.8 assists per game for Iowa State in 2019-20.
“I wasn’t the first and I know I wasn’t the last,” Bolton posted on Twitter. “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. BE the change you want to see.”
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