A report by Jesse Washington of The Undefeated regarding the circumstances surrounding former Nittany Lions guard Rasir Bolton's decision to transfer has led to an apology by Penn State men's basketball coach Pat Chambers. Per the Bolton family, Chambers approached the current Iowa State guard following a loss to Wisconsin in which Bolton struggled during the 2018-19 campaign, and in an attempt to express his desire to help alleviate pressure on his then-freshman point guard, Chambers used a metaphor that involved the phrase "loosen the noose that's around your neck."
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.”
According to Bolton's family's recollection of the moment between the player and his then-coach, Bolton mentioned what Chambers said to an academic advisor, a Black woman, who told him he was not overreacting by finding the remark concerning. Bolton and Chambers spoke that evening, with Chambers apologizing and, per the coach, saying that he meant to quote the Biblical metaphor of a yoke around a person's neck.
Bolton's family, when alerted to the moment, took action, first contacting athletic director Sandy Barbour and then Chambers, with whom they met after. The two sides disagree on whether Chambers issued an apology, and according to the Boltons, there was no repercussions for Chambers, while the young guard was instructed by a white sports psychologist about the best ways to learn "how to deal with Coach Chambers."
In the aftermath of the story, Barbour, Bolton, and Chambers have all released statements regarding what occurred. Barbour laid out steps that the athletic department is taking to foster a more inclusive environment; Bolton gave his full account on the incident and what occurred in the aftermath, calling on his fellow athletes to "BE the change you want to see;" and Chambers offered up an apology to Bolton and his family, writing that, "I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever."
Beyond these statements, a current and former Penn State basketball player have chimed in with support for Chambers. Ex-Nittany Lion standout Lamar Stevens, while saying that Chambers' word choice was poor, chalked this up to "a great man" making "a mistake," while rising senior guard Jamari Wheeler also praised his coach's character and alleged that Chambers apologized to the team in full multiple times, including the day after the incident occurred.