University of Kentucky President Eli Capiluto and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart on Monday backed the men’s basketball team, which suffered a setback after players and coaches, including John Calipari, knelt to protest social injustice ahead of Saturday’s victory at Florida, days after Washington stormed Capitol Hill.

In addition to the criticism the team received on social media, a local sheriff posted a video burning Kentucky jerseys and local officials asked state lawmakers to fund the university.

The value we hold dear in our country is the right to freedom of speech, Capiluto and Barnhart said in a joint statement. This right is also important for these young students as they learn, grow and discover who they are and what they believe in. We won’t always agree on everything. Yet we hope to negotiate the right to free speech that is so fundamental to our identity as an institution of higher learning. We live in a polarized and deeply divided country. Our hope – and that of our players and coaches – is to find ways to overcome our differences and come together.


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Sheriff John Ruth of Laurel County, Kentucky, aired a video Sunday showing him and a jailer burning shirts to commemorate some of the four Kentucky finalists. The video has since been removed, but the sheriff wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday: It makes me sick to think that a so-called coach and his team could do such an act.

During his radio show on Monday in Lexington, Calipari explained why the team decided to kneel.

It was the images they saw and they wanted their voices to be heard and I said, well, tell me what it is, he said. They told me. Then they said: We want you to get on your knees with us, which I did. I held my heart, but I knelt with them because I supported the boys. But it wasn’t about the army. Six of these players come from military families. … This isn’t about the army.

In Knox County, Kentucky, about a two-hour drive from Lexington, officials responded to the team’s decision by suggesting that the state fund the University of Kentucky by deciding to redistribute tax money from unpatriotic recipients to hardworking Kentucky taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth, according to the Times-Tribune in Corbin, Kentucky.

The players said Monday that they were waiting for an answer.

The great Olivier Sarr said they were using their platform to protest peacefully.

I think our actions speak for themselves, Mr Sarr said. We just want to show our support for our community and raise awareness of what has happened in the last few days, weeks and even in the 1940s. He comes from a place that understands peaceful conversation and openness. Here’s how.

Isaiah Jackson talked about the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol and the noose that was laid in front of the building.

He said it was one or two things. It’s like I saw a noose. It was just… It wasn’t in my pocket. It’s just something people shouldn’t do. I get the impression that people have their own opinions, but I got the impression that it was just a profit cut. It’s just the fender bender that’s mad at me.

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