LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — The Kentucky men’s basketball team took a knee during the national anthem prior to the Wildcats’ 76-58 win over Florida on Saturday in Gainesville.
Kentucky coach John Calipari didn’t become aware of the team’s plans until the Wildcats were on their way to the arena.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of conversations,” Calipari said. “I heard that they wanted to do it when we were on our way to the arena and so I called the three leaders in and said, ‘Talk to me.’ And they said, ‘We want to kneel.’ I said, ‘Tell me why.’ And they said, ‘This is why.’ I said, ‘Ok.’ They said, ‘Will you kneel with us?’ And I said, ‘Do you want me to?’ They said, ‘Yes. We do.’ And I said, ‘Ok. I’ll kneel with you.'”
The incidents at the U.S. Capitol earlier this week and pockets of civil unrest during the past few months prompted the players to kneel during the anthem. Calipari and the coaching staff followed.
“A lot of people see what’s going on right now, and it kind of speaks for itself,” Kentucky senior Davion Mintz said. “That was just our statement of what’s going on in America at this time.”
Kentucky sophomore Keion Brooks, one of the team’s returnees, stood in unity with Mintz and the rest of the team’s leaders, including Olivier Sarr.
“We decided this was something that we wanted to do to take a stand against what we’re seeing in the world today,” Brooks said. “We brought it to coach (Calipari) and coach was with us. It was great to have the head man in charge to back you in everything you do”
Calipari supported the team’s decision.
“I think, again, it’s something that speaks for itself (and) these kids are good kids,” he said. “They care about this country and all of the other stuff. They’re trying to figure out life and making statements that they think they have to make. I want to listen to what they’re saying and then I’ll support them if they want me to be there. If they said that we’re good by ourselves, I probably wouldn’t have been out there.”
Mintz said he’s not sure if the team will kneel during the anthem in the future.
“That’s just something we’ll have to keep discussing as a team,” he said. “As a team, we talk and that’s really special for us. Everyone comes in and shares their opinion. … we have guys on the team that really listen and we make a decision from there and our coaches support us.”
Gametracker: Alabama at Kentucky, 9 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.