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Former Penn State Basketball Player Says 'Noose' Remark by Chambers Led to Transfer

by on July 06, 2020 10:45 AM

Former Penn State basketball guard Rasir Bolton says that Nittany Lion men’s basketball coach Pat Chambers made a racially insensitive remark by referencing a "noose around your neck" during practice in January 2019, according to a report by The Undefeated published on Monday morning. '

From the story:

Bolton recalls Chambers, who was on the hot seat due to the suspension and a 7-8 record at that point in the season, saying, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you.

“I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”

On Monday morning Bolton released a second statement which largely summarizes The Undefeated's story. Bolton alleges that among other things, Chambers never apologized for his word choice.

"He said he was from the north and wasn't aware," Bolton says in a lengthy Twitter post.

“A noose; symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed at Africa Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism,” Bolton said in his statement. “Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”

Bolton says Chambers' remark and the university's lack of a response prompted him to transfer that spring.

“I don’t even know where it came from,” Chambers told The Undefeated. “It’s not a word that’s in my vocabulary. It’s not something I use often. There’s not a moment that goes by that I don’t want to reflect on that choice and, you know, I’m growing from it.

“If I was out of touch with the African American community,” Chambers said, “I’m not sure they would have been as successful as they were … we might not be saving lives, but I think we’re changing lives. And I think we’re making a major impact in our program, in inner-city communities.”

Chambers later states that he intended to say "yoke" and not noose.

“I just said [to Rasir], ‘You know what? I wish I would have known.’ ”

The report states that Bolton and his family took the matter to the university in various forms but was met with very little in the way of action. Bolton was reportedly referred to Penn State’s sports psychologist, while the department privately told Chambers that the word choice was "intolerable."

Bolton says he was only contacted by the university's athletic integrity office after he began the transfer process. He told the NCAA about the incident and was granted a waiver to play immediately at Iowa State.

"There is a serious need for change in the way players are protected and helped across the country when faced with these situations," Bolton wrote on Twitter. "Surface level resources are not good enough. In most cases it is is the coach who is protected while the player is left to deal with it or leave." 

Chambers issued a statement on Monday apologizing for the remark.

“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Raisr and the Bolton family for what I said. I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I made was hurtful, insensitive, and unacceptable,” he wrote. "I cannot apologize enough for what I said and I will carry that forever.

Chambers said that in talking with players and their families, he is committed to gaining a better understanding of "diverse perspectives and the impact of bias in our society," adding that he has "much more to learn."

"It is critically important for me to recognize my responsibility in better understanding the experiences of others and I am committed to doing the necessary work required to do just that," Chambers wrote.

The incident came just a few days after Chambers shoved guard Myles Dread, Bolton’s roommate, during a timeout. Chambers was suspended one game following the shove, was apologetic at the time and the once fiery head coach has had no known outbursts since. The incident was the only public reprimand Chambers has received during his tenure at the university aside from a $10,000 fine from the Big Ten in 2015 for criticizing officials following Penn State’s loss to Maryland.

Bolton transferred from Penn State in 2019 after a fairly solid freshman campaign. The rising junior eventually landed at Iowa State where he averaged nearly 15 points a game during his sophomore season in 2019-20. While at Penn State, Bolton was one of many young guards but still managed 11.6 points a contest and became one of the Nittany Lions’ more reliable offensive players as the season went along.

In an interview with PennLive in April 2019, when Bolton entered the transfer portal, his father, Ray, said the decision was based on a "non-basketball" issue, but declined to go into specifics.

“At this point, I want to give Penn State a chance to respond,” the elder Bolton said at the time. “I can tell you it’s a non-basketball related issue. Right now, we’re just trying to get through the process clean and move on to the next destination.

“School was great. Academically, the support system was tremendous. There were just some situations that went on throughout the course of the season that were just hard to come back from, as a family.”



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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