IOWA CITY — The only place Kirk Ferentz expects his Iowa football team to make a statement is on the scoreboard.
He doesn’t expect and likely would not tolerate any sort of individual protests by his team’s players as The National Anthem is performed at Hawkeye games.
The 19th-year Iowa head coach indicated Tuesday at his weekly news conference that his players are welcome to participate in as much political discourse as they desire — once they are away from the Iowa football complex.
“My preference is that we keep politics to our individual time. That’s how I look at it,’’ Ferentz said.
As athletes at the professional level become entangled in protests that began a year ago as a way to express concerns about social injustice and grew last weekend in response to tweets made by President Donald Trump, Iowa players say that kneeling, locking arms or simply hiding out in the locker room when the Anthem is played isn’t on their agenda.
“When you show up (at the Iowa football complex), everybody’s focused on one thing and that’s winning football games as a team,’’ defensive end Parker Hesse said. “There are lot of things dividing our country in different ways, but when you show up here, it’s a place where we can feel comfortable and get away from all that.’’
Hawkeye players traditionally stand along the sideline as the Anthem is played, hands over hearts.
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley is good with that, saying he doesn’t want outside distractions or anything that might disrupt team unity or get in the way of the Hawkeyes’ goals.
“We’re here for each other,’’ Wadley said. “I wouldn’t want to see one person doing one thing and the rest of the team doing something else. That’s part of a team.’’
Cornerback Amani Hooker echoed that, saying, “Football is football. We’re a family here, in it together and that’s the way it should be.’’
That is Ferentz’s point.
He said if a player felt the need to make an in-season political statement, he would “ask them to do it on their own time, use a platform where maybe it could make a difference.’’
The Iowa coach said he would encourage his players to volunteer and participate in community service activities, attend activist rallies, listen to candidates talk when they visit campus and participate in the voting process.
“If you really want to do something, do something, but some things are just way too easy,’’ Ferentz said. “I think in a lot of cases people just kind of follow the crowd. … Use your own mind.’’
Ferentz said he doesn’t believe that sports and politics need to be intertwined.
“I see the world differently, I guess. To me it’s the beauty of sports,’’ Ferentz said, pointing to the experience at Kinnick Stadium last Saturday as an example.
“Life’s always full of challenges and things that you maybe don’t agree with, but this is a chance to be unified. Whatever team you’re cheering for, you’re into the game. That is the beauty of it,’’ Ferentz said. “When you talk to our former players, they miss the camaraderie of it, the singleness of purpose. It’s a really unique time in someone’s life if you’re an athlete.’’
Ferentz said he and his staff encourage Hawkeye players to experience college life beyond the confines of the football complex.
He wants them to ask questions, be curious and grow as people.
“To me, that’s healthy. As long as you’re alive you should be doing that,’’ Ferentz said. “But this is the time we put everything aside. We all dress alike, act alike, and we’re trying to do the same thing. Whatever they do on campus is great. … But, to me that’s on the outside and sports ought to be about sports. That’s kind of how I look at the world. I always thought that was the beauty of sports.’’
JEWELL HONORED: Josey Jewell’s performance against Penn State led to Iowa’s senior linebacker earning a pair of national awards Tuesday.
Jewell was named the Bednarik Award player of the week and Bronko Nagurski Award national defensive player of the week for his efforts against the Nittany Lions.
Earlier named as the Big Ten co-defensive player of the week, Jewell equaled a career high with 16 tackles, recorded his fifth career interception, broke up two passes and recovered a fumble.
BACK ON THE FIELD: Free safety Brandon Snyder will return to action this season, Ferentz said.
“I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I think it’s fair to say he’ll get out there on the field this season in the regular season,’’ Ferentz said.
Snyder, who suffered an ACL tear in early April, will be in uniform and go through pregame warmups at Michigan State but will not play this week according to Ferentz.
REDSHIRT POSSIBILITY: Iowa coaches are keeping redshirt possibilities open by withholding back-up running back Toks Akinribade from action so far this season.
“With James (Butler) getting injured, that certainly affects things a little bit, so we’ll take it week by week,’’ Ferentz said. “Toks has to stay ready right now.’’
Ferentz said back-up kicker Keith Duncan, like Akinribade a sophomore, is in the same situation.