Whenever my friend Noel (we went to graduate school together at Iowa) and her husband, Hawekeye legend Ronnie Harmon come to town, they make a point to stop in and see my 87-year-old mother-in-law. Joyce is an Iowa native and lifetime Hawkeye fanatic. Ronnie barely gets in the door before Joyce has him on the couch for some football talk. He sits and graciously listens and shares stories with her and she is star-struck. Ronnie is her favorite Iowa player and he is a class act. These are some of the many moments when I am proud to be a Hawkeye.
Recently, we listened to Ronnie Harmon’s first interview in 30-years on local radio KCJJ. After this interview, we felt a mixture of sadness, shame, and pride—sadness after hearing what his and so many Black players’ experiences have been at Iowa, ashamed for not knowing, and pride for Ronnie having the courage to speak out.
As more Iowa football players began to share their experiences of racial discrimination—both in the football program and in Iowa City—it was clear that the pattern of discrimination needed to be disrupted. It is difficult to find that something we love so dearly and to which we feel so passionately connected could be broken. What is a Hawkeye fan to do? As Ronnie said in his interview, these are systems that must change. And change is hard.
Hawkeye fans, listen to the players that are speaking their truth. Give grace to the coaches as they confront their role in a program that lifted up some players while marginalizing others. Speak out to campus leadership; let them know we are watching from the sidelines. And, cheer for positive change as loudly as we do for touchdowns.