Rasir Bolton’s Penn State letter shows power of college athletes speaking out against ‘protected’ coaches

As the only form of substantial compensation that students and athletes receive is a revocable scholarship, criticizing coaches and administrators has been a risky avenue.

Historically, few college athletics players have talked about problems in their program, even when those problems include racially insensitive behavior by coaches.


This made the recent trend of current and former athletes to call on coaches for past observations a significant change in the NCAA's sporting dynamics. Players are discovering their voices and, at least at this time of protests from Black Lives Matter across the country, being heard.

On Monday, former Penn State basketball guard Rasir Bolton, now a member of the state of Iowa, described the conduct of coach Pat Chambers, who he pressured him to transfer from Nittany Lions to. Bolton specifically said that Chambers used the word "lasso" as a metaphor for the pressure he thought Bolton was feeling. Bolton said Chambers did not apologize even after telling Chambers and school administrators how the reference to a symbol rooted in racism made him uncomfortable.


Bolton's story comes shortly after current and former Oklahoma football players criticized coach Mike Gundy for a series of confirmed and alleged actions, from wearing a T-shirt from an anti-Black Lives Matter media organization to calling former athletes "bandits" and other racially insensitive names. Clemson football players had similar complaints about the program run by trainer Dabo Swinney.

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Like Gundy a few weeks ago, Chambers on Monday apologized for his conduct and promised to learn from experience. It is not yet known if he really changes, but the fact that he released a statement within two hours of Bolton's comments demonstrates the growing power that college athletes are realizing to request public recognition of their complaints. When they speak, they are able to make administrations fumble.

Bolton ended his Twitter post on Chambers, assessing the power structure of the status quo in college sports.

"In most cases, it is the coach who is protected, as long as the player is left to deal with it or leave," Bolton wrote.

As more players draw attention to coaches' mistakes – and realize that the problem is widespread – that attitude may start to change. Maybe one day it will be the NCAA coach who needs to change his mind or leave, like what happens in professionals.


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