Former player says Patrick Chambers' comments prompted transfer from Penn State

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Penn State head coach Pat Chambers reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Rutgers and Penn State, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 72-61. (AP Photo/Michael Owens)

A former Penn State basketball player has cited comments from coach Patrick Chambers as the reason he transferred away from the university a year ago.

Rasir Bolton, now a guard at Iowa State, told The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington in a story published Monday that Chambers first made a troubling remark while trying to comfort him during a slump in early 2019.

“I want to be a stress reliever for you,” Chambers told Bolton, then a freshman. “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.”

The reference to a noose bothered Bolton, who said spoke with his parents and an academic adviser about the incident. A pair of conversations with Chambers followed, and he expressed remorse for choosing that analogy, which carries racial connotations because of the use of nooses in lynchings.

Later, however, Chambers told Bolton “he was impressed with how ‘organized’ and ‘well-spoken’ his parents were,” Washington writes. Bolton found those comments problematic as well.

At season’s end, Bolton sought to transfer. After telling the NCAA of the incident, he was granted immediate eligibility at Iowa State, where he averaged nearly 15 points per game this past season.

For his part, Chambers repeated his apology in an interview with Washington last week.

“I didn’t realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that,” Chambers said, citing his personal and professional roots in northern cities as a reason he was unaware of the symbolism of nooses in Black communities. 

Chambers’ inclusion on a National Association of Basketball Coaches panel addressing racial injustice prompted Bolton to speak out because he felt disrespected again. He also addressed the incident on his Twitter account Monday.

Chambers and athletic director Sandy Barbour released their own statements via Twitter as well.