John Root, a Laurel County Sheriff, lit shirts on fire while demanding that the Wildcats’ head basketball coach be fired after allowing players to kneel during Saturday’s win over Florida.
“I honestly can’t believe a team from Kentucky (the Hillbilly State) took a knee to our National Anthem with the American flag displayed!” Root wrote on Facebook. “The UK apparel and memorabilia is gone tomorrow, and until we get a real man to lead the cats and a real team, you will not see me back in no UK junk, and if you do just come right up and hit me square in my mouth!!!!”
The University of Kentucky’s president and athletic director, Eli Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart, issued a statement supporting the team.
“A value we all hold dear in our country is the right of free speech and self-expression,” the statement says. “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.”
On Calipari’s radio show, he addressed the decision to kneel.
“It was all the images that they saw, and they wanted to have their voice heard, and I said, well, ‘Tell me what it’s about,” he said. “They talked to me about it. Then they said, ‘We’d like you to kneel with us,’ which I did. I held my heart, but I did kneel with them because I support the guys. But, it wasn’t about military. Six of these players come from military families.”