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Bolton opens up about transfer from PSU

Former Lion says coach made noose comment

Penn State's Rasir Bolton (13) and Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers (35) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

From staff reports

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers came under fire on Monday after a comment he made to a former player in January of 2019 became public.

Rasir Bolton, a freshman standout for the Nittany Lions during the 2018-19 season took to Twitter to explain his reason for transferring to Iowa State following the season. Bolton’s statement accused Chambers of referencing a “noose” around his neck.

In an article by The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington, Bolton recalled that Chambers said the following in reference to the team’s slow start during the season:

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

A few days earlier, Chambers was suspended for shoving Myles Dread during a time out at Michigan.

“A ‘noose’ around my neck is why I left Penn State,” Bolton wrote on Twitter. “Head Coach Patrick Chambers, the day after his one-game suspension in January 2019, in talking to me referenced a ‘noose’ around my neck. A noose, symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed at African Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism. Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”

Bolton said he reported the incident to his academic adviser, confronted Chambers and spoke directly with the athletic director’s office. He also said his parents contacted the school.

Bolton averaged 11.6 points per game and shot 36.1 percent from 3-point range for the Nittany Lions as a freshman in 26.9 minutes per game. Bolton averaged 14.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the Cyclones this season after he was granted immediate eligibility at Iowa State.

Chambers also released a statement on Twitter Monday.

“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir 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. I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever,” Chambers wrote. “I try and respond to mistakes I have made by learning and growing, and I hold myself accountable and strive to be a better person and a better coach. In talking with our players and their families, I am committed to seeking knowledge and gaining a better understanding of diverse perspectives and impact of bias in our society. I have much more to learn.”

Bolton said Chambers never apologized prior to his post Monday. Other Penn State men’s basketball players disputed that and came to the defense of Chambers on social media.

“He apologized to him the same day and then apologize(d) to the team the next day in a team meeting,” wrote guard Jamari Wheeler, who will be a senior this season. Wheeler also released a statement that said:

“I want to start off by saying my teammates and I never had any racial incidents with Coach Chambers. He’s a great coach and an even better man and father. He accepted every person on the team with open arms no matter the race! He treats everyone from the players to the coaching staff with equality and holds everyone to the same standard, including himself. Coach and the staff talked to our team on multiple occasions about the incident that was recently brought to light regarding a statement that was made to a former player during practice. And also apologized multiple times about what was said.”

Lamar Stevens, who is second on Penn State’s scoring list and just finished his collegiate career, wrote on Twitter that his experiences with Chambers were not similar to Bolton’s.

“He used a poor choice of words but Coach Chambers is a great man who made a mistake,” Stevens wrote. “His actions towards all his current and past players speaks much more volume. Do I wish he used another phrase to get his message across to Rasir? 100%. But he is far from a racist or a bad man.”

Dread appeared to address the situation, although his comments were vague.

“Speak on what you know…there’s a lot more than just what meets the eye,” Dread wrote on Twitter.

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour also released a statement about the comments.

“Patrick Chambers deeply regrets the words he chose and understands the pain he caused Rasir Bolton and his family,” Barbour wrote. “Patrick has stated that he is committed to educating himself and he is actively working to learn and grow, which will be imperative to his future success at Penn State.”

Barbour said the Black community of students need to feel safe and the school is working toward goals to make that happen.

Penn State will hold an annual Intercollegiate Athletics climate survey to gain feedback on the culture and take action based on the results to address the issues and work with the Student-Athlete Advisory Board’s Welfare Committee on enhancing the quality of life and personal growth of student athletes.

Chambers is 148-150 in nine seasons as Penn State men’s basketball coach. The Nittany Lions won the NIT title in 2018 and won 26 games that season. Penn State finished this year 21-10 and were ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll at one point during the season. The Nittany Lions appeared to be a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance under Chambers — the team’s first since 2011 — before the season was canceled during the Big Ten Tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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