I am in Middlesboro today but I cannot help but weigh in on a topic near and dear to the KSR heart, the union of politics and UK basketball. We learned again of this yesterday, when a news report came out that John Calipari would be hosting a fundraiser for Governor Steve Beshear at his home, in hopes of raising money for his re-election campaign. The news broke and apparently Calipari immediately began taking criticism with some fans writing on his internet sites and the Herald Leader site that it was inappropriate for Calipari to be mixing politics and basketball. The outrage was similar to that which happened when Calipari attempted to send a jersey to Barack Obama, leading fans who disliked the President to then complain about the decision. Calipari responded to the criticism by cancelling the fundraiser the same day that it went public, citing a busy schedule.
I admit to being once again disappointed by the decision of some (and the media should remember it is only some, not the majority) UK fans, who want to somehow believe that those in public life should not have the ability to have politicial thoughts outside of their profession. John Calipari is the basketball coach at UK….but he is also a citizen of the Commonwealth, who has a right to support whoever he wants in politics. In the same way that an electrician, businessman, waiter or candlestick maker has the right to be for any political party they wish, so does the basketball coach at UK. I am often told on here and even on my Facebook that we “shouldnt mix politics and sports.” Often the reason people say that to me is that for them, all I am is a person who is associated with UK basketball. That is fine, but it forgets that I, like everyone else, have diverse interests and I enjoy thinking about them and expressing them. Multiply that by a thousand and it equates to what the UK basketball coach goes through. For all of us, John Calipari is simply a basketball coach…that is what he means to our lives. But he too is a person with interests outside the basketball arena, and if he wants to express those in politics, that is his right. Kentucky coaches in the past have done so (Pitino appeared on stage with Clinton, Gillispie donated to Republican candidates) and Calipari certainly does as well. Whether you care or are moved by his endorsements or fundraising is a different question…but his right to do so should be unquestioned.
There are very jobs in which one is supposed to be totally apolitical. Judges are considered to be away from politics, but many are still involved, such as Clarence Thomas, whose wife is active in Republican national politics. Some state employees are not allowed to engage in certain political activities, but professors and employees of higher educational institutions have never been part of that prohibition. But the idea that he UK basketball coach should have no public opinions about anything other than basketball is misguided. Dean Smith for years was a crusader for liberal causes and Coach K has spent a great deal of time raising money for Republican candidates in North Carolina. Whether doing so is a smart public relations decision is an open question. But I hope we get to he point that we get over this notion that the coaches (or players) at UK are not allowed to care about politics and express their opinions…even when you disagree. Calipari is a citizen just like the rest of us….if he wants to hold a fundraiser for Steve Beshear in 2010 and then Richie Farmer in 2014 (and I bet he would do both), he should have that right and fans need to take a step back. Just because he doesnt support who you would support, doesnt mean he cant have a life (and opinions) that you dont share.
And with that, the nerd fight below can commence….