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U. of Iowa Holds Roundtable About Racism in Athletics

Paul Steinbach

A three-person panel moderated by the University of Iowa's newly named director of diversity, equity and inclusion met Wednesday via Zoom to discuss racism in the UI athletic department.

As reported by NBC affiliate KWWL, perceived racial bias has been a hot issue in Iowa City since former players started sharing their experiences within the football program in June. Iowa responded to these allegations by firing strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle later that month, and the football program has committed to spotting and extinguishing racism in the future.

"Right now might be the best opportunity America has to discuss these topics," Alexis Sevillian, a member of the Hawkeye women's basketball team, said during Wednesday's roundtable.

Sevillian joined Quinn Early, a former Iowa football player, and Dr. Louis Moore, a professor of Black history and culture at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, on the panel. The forum was moderated by former Hawkeye football player Broderick Binns, who was named the athletic department's DEI director in July.

The panelists said they were happy more athletes are using their platforms in 2020 to help reduce barriers for minority players.

"We have so many young kids looking up to us," Sevillian said, according to KWWL. "It's important to not let our sports use us but use our sports in any way we can."

A Missouri law firm found evidence of a toxic culture and unfair treatment of Black players in late July.

Related: Layers Pull Iowa Players' Settlement Demand, Will Sue

Coach Kirk Ferentz responded to the report at that time by acknowledging the program needs to be better.

Quinn Early felt Ferentz handled the situation well. "He was super receptive to it. That was super powerful in itself," Early said.

Sevillian said she believes Iowa has made strides across all its sports since the summer, making a better home for minority athletes.

"Trying to make our minority students feel comfortable and having that community of people who look like you," she said. "Because that's important, especially at a predominantly white school."

The main takeaway for all the speakers was that racism needs to continue to be called out, even if it means uncomfortable conversations.

"If I don't have the courage or confidence to do that, how can I expect things to change?" Sevillian said.

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