Former Penn State basketball player Rasir Bolton transferred to Iowa State in May of 2019, but never explained why he decided to leave PSU. Over a year later, Bolton revealed what caused him to seek a transfer.
In a tweet Monday, Bolton explained that coach Pat Chambers’ use of the word “noose” in a conversation, and the subsequent response from Chambers and the athletic department, led him to enter the transfer portal.
In an interview with Jesse Washington of The Undefeated, Bolton and his parents gave more context for the incident. It occurred shortly after Chambers had shoved PSU player (and Bolton’s childhood friend) Myles Dread on the sideline during a game. Chambers was suspended for the next game against Wisconsin, and he and Bolton spoke the following day.
The day after the Wisconsin game, Chambers told Bolton he knew the freshman was under a lot of pressure and wanted to help him. 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.”
Bolton said in his statement that he doesn’t believe Chambers using the word “noose” was a slip of the tongue, given his other interactions with the coach. Bolton told The Undefeated that Chambers never apologized during a meeting between himself, his parents, the athletic director and Chambers. Bolton also alleges that Chambers said his parents were “organized” and “well spoken” during that meeting, which are backhanded “compliments” often leveled at Black people.
Chambers tweeted a statement on Monday, formally and publicly apologizing to Bolton and his parents for using the word “noose” and failing to grasp its larger significance.
Chambers spoke to The Undefeated about the incident. He admitted to using the word “noose” in a conversation with Bolton, and deeply regrets it, but doesn’t remember calling Bolton’s parents “organized” or “well spoken.” Chambers also recalls apologizing during that meeting.
While a few details surrounding the incident aren’t clear, one thing is: Despite coaching Black players his entire career, Chambers didn’t understand that using the word “noose” in that context with a Black player was inappropriate. Chambers will have to hope that his apology and pledge to listen and learn rings true with his players.
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