University of Kentucky backs male basketball player John Calipari amid kneeling local backlash

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University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and athletic director Mitch Barnhart on Monday supported the men’s basketball team, which faced backlash after players and coaches including John Calipari, kneeled ahead of Saturday’s victory in Florida to protest social injustice days after rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC
Beyond the criticism the team faced on social media, a local sheriff posted a video of him burning Kentucky T-shirts, and local officials have asked state lawmakers to postpone the university.

“One value that is close to our hearts in our country is the right to freedom of speech and personal expression,” Capilouto and Barnhart said in a joint statement. “This right for young students like these is also important, as they learn, grow and discover who they are and what they believe. We will not always agree on every question. However, we hope to agree on the right to self-expression, which is so fundamental to who we are as a higher education institution. We live in a polarized and deeply divided country. Our hope – and that of our players and coaches – is to find ways to connect, divide and unify. ”

Sheriff John Root of Laurel County, Ky., Posted a video Sunday that showed him and a jailer burning shirts commemorating some of Kentucky’s Final Four races. The video has since been deleted, but in a Facebook post on Saturday the sheriff wrote: “To think that a so-called coach and a team would take such actions makes me sick. ”

On his Monday radio show in Lexington, Calipari explained why the team chose to kneel down.

“It was all the pictures that they saw and they wanted to make their voices heard, and I said, well, ‘Tell me what this is,’” he said. “They told me about it. Then they said, ‘We would like you to kneel down with us,’ which I did. I held my heart, but knelt with them because I support guys. But it was not on the military. Six of these players come from military families.… They were not the military. ”

In Knox County, Kentucky, about two hours from Lexington, officials responded to the team’s decision to kneel down by proposing that the state defend the University of Kentucky through a resolution “to reallocate tax funds from unpatriotic recipients to hard-working Kentucky.” [taxpayers] across this Commonwealth, ”according to the Times-Tribune newspaper from Corbin, Kentucky.

The players said on Monday they had anticipated the backlash.

Big man Olivier Sarr said they are using their platform as players to protest peacefully.

“I think our action speaks for itself,” Sarr said. “What has happened the last few days, weeks and even during quarantine, we just want to show our support for our community and raise awareness about the events that have happened in recent times. It comes from a place of understanding peaceful conversations and open-mindedness. That’s it. ”

Isaiah Jackson spoke about the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol and referred to a noose that was seen erected outside the building.

“It was two or three things,” he said. “Like, I saw the noose. It was just – it was out of their pocket. It’s just something that people shouldn’t be doing. I feel like people have their own opinions, but it was just, like, it was just out of pocket. The simple act of robbing is just crazy to me. ”

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