It was due to multiple instances of racial insensitivities and inappropriate statements from coach Pat Chambers, including the phrase, "I want to loosen the noose that's around your neck."
Bolton not only tweeted out that statement and provided context for his decision, he also spoke with The Undefeated about the matter. The Undefeated interviewed Chambers as well. He admitted to using the noose metaphor and expressed remorse over doing so.
"I didn't realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that," Chambers told The Undefeated.
Whereas Chambers has apologized on the record now -- and did so again in a statement released on Monday (see below) -- The Undefeated's story states that Bolton and his parents did not receive a true apology in 2019, though Chambers recalls doing so to the family. Bolton said he was prompted to speak about this publicly for the first time due to Chambers' involvement in a June NABC webinar on racial equality, including how coaches can and do play a part in that conversation.
Chambers' noose comment to Bolton in 2019 came just as Chambers was served a one-game suspension for shoving one of his players -- Myles Dread, who was Bolton's roommate -- during a game. And in Bolton's tweet from Monday, he states, "Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue."
Per The Undefeated, here is the context of the interaction that led to Chambers invoking noose imagery.
It was January 2019, and the team was in a troubled state. Four days earlier, during a loss at Michigan, Chambers became enraged during a timeout and shoved one of his players in the chest. The moment was caught on national television. Chambers apologized and was suspended for the next game, a 19-point home loss to Wisconsin. Bolton shot poorly against Wisconsin and finished with seven points, five assists and two turnovers.
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."
Making matters worse for Chambers, after he was confronted with the matter and spoke with Bolton's parents, he allegedly told Bolton that his parents were "organized" and "well-spoken," phrases laced with implicit bias and racial insensitivity. Chambers told The Undefeated's Jesse Washington that he did not remember making such comments to Bolton.
The 49-year-old Chambers has coached at Penn State since 2011. A couple of hours after Bolton's tweet, Chambers apologized again in a formal statement posted to his Twitter account. In it he writes, "It is critically important for me to recognize my responsibility in better understanding the experiences of others and I am committed to doing the necessary work required to do just that."
Bolton transferred to Iowa State for his sophomore season in 2019. When he brought his case for a waiver to the NCAA and included the reasons why he left, the NCAA granted him immediate eligibility. Bolton was a standout guard for Iowa State in 2019-20, averaging 14.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.