It’s been a volatile week around the country. Last Wednesday, violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in D.C. in a surreal and disturbing scene that was unlike anything we’ve witnessed. The fallout is still ongoing, but it has since prompted athletes to respond with peaceful protests, such as kneeling during the national anthem, an act that has been hypocritically vilified by the same faction that took part in the riot in Washington.
Several NBA teams took a knee during the anthem last week, and over the weekend, some college teams joined them in solidarity. The Kentucky Wildcats were chief among them, which has since erupted into a whole slew of controversy that has even involved local police.
After players knelt before Saturday’s game against Florida, Laurel County Sheriff John Root and County Jailer Jamie Mosley posted videos on social media of them burning Kentucky uniforms.
Together as one pic.twitter.com/4cWrZw8z74
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 9, 2021
Since then, university officials have voiced their support for the team with school president Eli Capilouto and athletic director Mitch Barnhart issuing a joint statement defending their right to peaceful protest, via Myron Medcalf of ESPN.
“A value we all hold dear in our country is the right of free speech and self-expression,” Capilouto and Barnhart said in a joint statement. “That right for young students such as these is important, too, as they learn, grow, and find out who they are and what they believe. We won’t always agree on every issue. However, we hope to agree about the right of self-expression, which is so fundamental to who we are as an institution of higher learning. We live in a polarized and deeply divided country. Our hope — and that of our players and our coaches — is to find ways to bridge divides and unify.”
The backlash was expected, but no less stunning in the double-standard that has been routinely applied to athletes over the past year. Still, it’s crucial that the university come out and support their team for simply exercising what is arguably the most American of rights.