49ers’ George Kittle Responds to Iowa Players’ Claims, Strength Coach’s Suspension

GETTY George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers speaks to the media during the San Francisco 49ers media availability prior to Super Bowl LIV at the James L. Knight Center on January 29, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

Former Iowa Hawkeye and current San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle only had words of acknowledgement and praise after former Iowa players shared racist and uncomfortable experiences with the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

Kittle’s response comes after former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels first called out the program, then shared other Iowa players’ experiences over Twitter.

In response, Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz placed the team’s strength coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave on Saturday.

“Over the past 24 hours, I’ve seen some difficult and heartbreaking posts on social media. I appreciate the former players’ candor, and I’ve been reaching out to many of them individually and will continue to do so moving forward to learn more about their experiences in our program.

Many of the discussions have surrounded our strength and conditioning program and coach Chris Doyle. I’ve spoken with him about the allegations posted on social media. They’re troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players. Therefore, coach Doyle has been placed on administrative leave immediately while an independent review can take place.”

Kittle Praises His Teammates’ Courage

The 49ers talisman wasted no time in his statement explaining where he stands on the issue.

“I write to offer my support and affirmation to my former teammates and other individuals who played football at the University of Iowa. Recently, they have shared their stories of mistreatment and racism they have experienced while on the Iowa football team.”

Kittle went on to say that it emotionally pains him to see it happen within the Hawkeyes’ program.

“My heart aches for my Iowa teammates, my brothers, and my friends,” Kittle said. “I want them to know that I stand with them, support them, and applaud them for having the courage to speak up and start this difficult conversation.”

Kittle played for Iowa from 2013 to 2016 before being selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by San Francisco. Since joining the 49ers, Kittle has racked up 2,945 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 2018 and 2019.

The tight end concluded his statement by encouraging former Iowa players to reach out and share their experiences.

“I am listening and available for any of my former teammates or others who played at Iowa who wish to share their stories with me.”

Further Words from Other Hawkeyes

While Emmanuel Rugamba’s experience has garnered the most attention, Daniels’ thread has shared several other stories and views from former Hawkeyes.

Gair played as a defensive back for Iowa during the same years as Kittle, from 2013 to 2016.

Another former Iowa defensive back, Maurice Fleming, also shared his opinion on the matter, explaining how the experience negatively affected his mental health.

Former safety and current Tennessee Titan Amani Hooker also added that walking around Iowa’s program as a person of color or different background meant having to withhold yourself to adhere to the Hawkeyes’ program.

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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering all kinds of football for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.