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John Calipari defends Keion Brooks’ comments about Rupp Arena name change

Keion brooks
Keion brooks

The University of Kentucky has seen several of its most prominent student-athletes speak out during a historic few days in American sports and Keion Brooks Jr. was one of the people who unfairly received the most criticism.

On Friday, after Brooks Jr. recently told the media during a virtual press conference that he would be in favor of changing the name of Rupp Arena, his head coach, John Calipari, came to his player’s defense, saying that his opinion should be shown the respect he has earned and deserves.

#BBN, I know some of you are upset with @KeionB_12’s comments regarding @Rupp_Arena. Let me tell you he’s a very smart person and a very conscientious young man. However you feel about what he said, my hope is you show him the respect that all of our/your players deserve.

My job is to make sure all of our players are educated on all that goes along with Coach Rupp’s name and we are going to walk through that. My plan is to get former players on a Zoom with our current guys so they can ask those players directly about Coach Rupp.

My focus has been on everything going forward, which is why we hadn’t addressed it. As I’ve said before, give these players the benefit of the doubt. If you’re unhappy w/anything, be unhappy with me, not a 19-year-old who is walking through these difficult times. I love you all.

Calipari states that he plans on setting up a Zoom call with his team and some former players so they can more accurately flesh out the truths of the situation. Recently, Calipari has been extra active with helping educate his team, teaching them the importance of voting and, in the process, registering his entire team to vote.

Brooks spoke to the media on Friday for roughly 16 minutes, addressing several issues and topics that ranged from the Rupp Arena name change, the ongoing social and racial injustices in America, and what he’s seen in sports throughout the past week. The rising sophomore is the lone returning player from last season’s team but is anticipated to make a major leap in production. Before the season has begun, he’s already made a leap as the team’s leader.

Over the last two weeks, Brooks has been named one of 11 members that will join the NABC Player Development Coalition, along with one of five Wildcats tabbed to the SEC’s Council on Racial Equity and Social Justice. During his interview with the media, Brooks spoke up on the topic of potentially changing the name of the famous Rupp Arena, which is located in downtown Lexington and named after former head coach Adolph Rupp. While he admitted that he would need to gather more information, Brooks was confident when he stated that he believes the name should be changed to something that has not been connected to a history of racism.

“Being honest, I haven’t educated myself enough on Adolph Rupp, or the whole situation at hand to really give my thoughts on it,” Brooks said. “But from what I do know, I would like to see a name change, just basically because what his name is and what that’s connected to and what it kind of represents. That’s really all I can say, but I would like to see a name change.”

In a statement sent to ESPN, the UK African American and Africana Studies Program, the same department that initially sparked the rally for a potential name change to Rupp Arena, commended Brooks for his thoughts and called upon Calipari to discuss the issue further with his team.

“The faculty of the African American [and] Africana Studies Program and the Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies offer our support to Keion Brooks, Jr.,” the statement said. “He courageously supported our call to change the name of Rupp Arena. Mr. Brooks has made this stand knowing full well the vitriol he will face from a segment of University of Kentucky sports fans. Mr. Brooks is already a leader on these issues as a member of the [SEC Council on Racial Equality and Social Justice]. We welcome Mr. Brooks, his teammates, Coach Calipari, and his staff to meet with us to educate him and others further about why Rupp’s name should be removed from the arena. Finally, we encourage Mr. Brooks, student-athletes, and students interested in these issues to consider enrolling in our Race and Sports class in Spring 2021.” [via ESPN]

University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said back in January that the arena will keep the Rupp name “forever”. Calipari said earlier this week that he is “all ears” when it comes to having discussions about a potential name change. We’ll see where the conversation goes from here.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

47 Comments for John Calipari defends Keion Brooks’ comments about Rupp Arena name change

  1. Southky
    3:12 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    So….how was he unfairly criticized? When you comment on political issues to the media you open yourself up to be criticized. Don’t give me the “he is just a kid” crap. At his age I was working to earn a living. Many, many more people his age put their lives on the line every day to protect our country. Thousands his age have given their lives for our country.

    • rockyou
      3:19 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Very well said Southky, I agree 100%. If you jump into the fray, be prepared to take some criticism. That’s what’s wrong with young people, they think they know everything and are sooo much smarter than the old folks. I should know, I was young once.
      I’m also with you Cousins!!

    • Urincatland
      6:50 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Totally agree!

  2. DoubleB65
    3:14 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Serious question: Does UK control the naming rights to Rupp? Why would faculty, Cal and players think the name could be changed otherwise?

  3. sharpshooter81
    3:22 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Agree. UK and it’s basketball history is bigger than any player, school department and even the mighty Cal!! The name will never be changed because Rupp was a great coach and person. Get over your request because it ain’t happening.

  4. sharpshooter81
    3:23 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    No, UK does not own the naming rights or the building. Plus, Barnhart said it will always be named Rupp Arena.

  5. J. Did
    3:27 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    At the time, Coach Rupp had to protect kids from the racist South. Folks need to understand that he and his team had to travel to Alabama and Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia at a time when it was not safe for persons of color. It was an huge responsibility. What if Naismith were racist? Should we change then name of ‘Basketball’ to ‘Hoops”? Ridiculousness.

    • serdi
      4:26 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      I just shake my head when I read comments like this that insinuate that Kentucky was day-laws and Jim Crow free while there sister institutions in the SEC were the racist villains. It was tough for a black athlete to think about going to any school in the SEC even UK and Lexington. Coach Rupp was very concerned that in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana the fear was that it would be very difficult.

      We are comparing as others have said the 1950s and 1960s to 2020 standards. That is not comparing apples with apples. I would challenge all the faculty and staff members of African-American studies, etc. to truly look at the facts…facts…(know facts don’t matter much if at all these days) before they judge Coach Rupp.

  6. T-Town Cat
    3:34 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Cal is right that we should blame him for just now saying he will educate the players about Rupp, and for not doing enough PR coaching on how to respond to “trap” questions like this. UK should take this opportunity to build an on campus facility, name it Wildcat Arena, and move on.

    • J. Did
      4:23 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Agreed, T-Town Cat. CAL is a great human being. No question, he is a player’s coach…foremost. CAL attends Mass daily. That’s huge. It is indicative of passion, love, commitment. He builds young men based on this foundation. Admirable. This, as opposed to Pitino…who had a Priest on his bench.

    • CrystalBall
      4:29 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Very good point T-Town. But it will never happen as long as Rupp Arena is standing.

  7. VirginiaCat
    3:54 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    What’s missing is context. Rupp was a man of the 1950s and is being judged by 2020 standards. Societies evolve; folkways and mores change over time. Rupp was a product of his times. Vague allegations of racism should not overshadow the fact that he built a world class basketball program that has been a point of state pride for many decades. It would be a mistake to remove Rupp’s name because he lived in an era that is incorrect by today’s standards.

    4:17 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Pretty sure the key here is in the paragraph where he states that “to tell you the truth, I have not studied the issue enough”, OK so why have an opinion? Thats part of the problem, too many un-researched and uneducated opinions.

  9. light my fire
    4:17 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    If he is allowed to say his opinion then he needs to be ready for other people’s opinions

  10. Wildfelinebeeline
    4:22 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Zac, you clearly misrepresented what Cal said about being all ears! He said he was all ears to what proof they wanted to bring to the table. That’s not renaming the arena! Why do you and KSR keep trying to further this cause of BLM? Seriously, you are creating fake news to help further some agenda and it’s quite sickening!

    • wildcatdon
      4:40 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Cal should have no say in the matter anyway. Brooks should have just kept quiet.

  11. UKFanSC
    4:23 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    I believe we can all move forward and achieve improved social justice without renaming buildings, snatching statues from their pedestals, kneeling before games, disrespecting the flag, burning looting rioting, defunding police, turning ESPN into a 24 hour social-justice commercial and all of the other insanity that BLM has introduced into our society. Social justice, yes. Cancel culture, no. If this administration caves and supports the elimination of Adolph Rupp and his heritage from our program it would be a tragic mistake…….an even bigger mistake than Brooks opening his uneducated mouth and throwing gas on this flame.

    • AcceptanceNow
      8:13 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Absolutely—we can and SHOULD be able to move forward without all of the unintended side effects of the Social Justice movement mentioned in your post. It’s just that it has to start with Police Officers being held accountable for their actions and no longer shooting / killing black men (who are not shooting at them / pointing a gun at them first).

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      11:10 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Acceptance, are you saying a knife is not a deadly weapon? Specifically the kind of knife (linked below) that Blake allegedly had? I don’t know if he did or not, but please wait until the facts all come out.

  12. Wildfelinebeeline
    4:25 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    I’m sure they’ll be clearing all the comments shortly! KSR has become a tool for a Fascist organization!

    • UKFanSC
      4:34 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      My theory is that Matt rented the comment section of this site to the University sociology department for the purposes of data mining. They throw an article like this to chum the waters every couple of days.

    • AcceptanceNow
      8:15 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Don’t buy into that. Not all who call for change are Fascists. Just like not all who prefer to live in the past are racist.

  13. blueballs80
    4:46 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Back then the south was racist as hell so was in a tough spot. The question is did he ever use racial slurs against black athletes?

    • UKFaninCO
      5:27 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Today, BLM is a Marxist, racist, unAmerican organization….what’s their excuse?

  14. runningunnin.454
    6:10 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    I would love to hear a substantive argument from the African American and Africana Studies faculty exactly why Rupp’s name should be removed. But, rather, I would expect some puerile, fatuous reference to a game in which the coach of a small Texas college benched two white players that had started for him all year in order to set up a confrontation between an all white lineup and an all black lineup. Even when his team faced serious foul trouble, and injury to one of his black players he refused to play any white players. Yeah, there was a racist involved there; but, his name wasn’t Rupp.
    The irony is that when Hollywood made the movie about the game, they stole Rupp’s own words…Glory Road; pay particular attention at 0:57

  15. runningunnin.454
    6:25 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Maybe the AA and A Studies faculty can explain to me why a racist would go out of his way to secure a college scholarship for a young African-American in 1950 when he could not sign that young man himself due to Jim Crow laws that ruled the SEC. That young man’s name was Jim Tucker; he was given the scholarship to Duquesne solely on Rupp’s recommendation, and later became only the 2nd African-American to play in the NBA; He played on the 1955 NBA championship team; pay particular attention at 9:24 and 13:34

  16. rushman
    6:33 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Coach Rupp was not a racist and anyone who did basic research would know that before making a ridiculous comment about changing the name of Rupp Arena.

  17. michaelb
    6:50 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    I know , I know . I hear both sides … we gotta back our man brooks . We just got to listen to him. In all likelihood, the rupp name is not changing anytime soon

  18. channell
    7:02 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    If Cal don’t know the real truth about Rupp, then he needs to get properly informed and educate these ignorant kids. They should have done their research before they came to KY. I find it hard to believe that the city of lexington would find it necessary to change the name. So why don’t the university void Rupp of all his wins too? If they are offended, then allow them to take their snowflake a$$es some where else. One and done’s should never be allowed to come in to Ky and dictate what individual the state chooses to exalt. It appears to me that Cal has them registered to vote to try to oust Trump but it will not work. He never took interest in registration before this election. The BLM organization is a marxist, racist organization and their primary goal is to kill cops.

  19. Bluehender
    7:39 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Well that’s something I didn’t know rg. Do you suppose they may go after Duke University now and demand a name change? Holy cow that’s by far worse than anything Adolph Rupp may have allegedly done..

  20. 44stewart
    8:39 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Rupp was raciest. Name needs changed. He used the n word like it was a normal part of conversation.

    • runningunnin.454
      8:46 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      Do you use the n-word? Do you listen to rap songs that use that same word 50 times? BTW, Rupp was raciest? Really? Titillating and arousing? Maybe you need a thesaurus.

    • 44stewart
      9:40 am August 31, 2020 Permalink

      No I do not would never use it. If you don’t see the difference in black man using the n word than a white man, there is really no help for you. And picking on me because of a misspelling is definitely the issue being discussed.

    • UKFanSC
      9:58 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      The whole notion of eliminating something from society because it offends a minority subset of its members is fundamentally flawed. There are a number of things I encounter in day-to-day life that I don’t like, but I tolerate them because compromise is required at times.
      This exercise in “soul purging” has been therapeutic, but the true likelihood of Rupp being dropped is minuscule. In fact, the nation is really gagging on the social justice force feed. White America, however empathetic 6 months ago, is about fed up. It’s called overplaying your hand, and thanks to LeBron, Keon, Oprah, Mark Cuban, ESPN and others the anti-America vitriol has backfired. Look behind you, nothing but wide-eyed, unemployed, college educated unemployed weenies in BLM costumes. Laughable really. Main America is shaking its head in disgust, and soon tens of millions of level-headed working Americans will vote…..and the democratic-affiliated national anarchy will most assuredly re-elect Trump.
      All the social justice mavens like you will get back to Pop Tarts and Fortnight on a 32 inch screen.

  21. runningunnin.454
    8:39 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Absolutely, I’m sure they will go after Duke with the same fervor that the ncaa goes after the Duke brotherhood’s money men.
    And, I’m sure the UK African American and Africana Studies faculty will express outrage that Rupp may have uttered the n-word once or twice; but, then they will probably put in their phone ear buds, and listen to songs that use the same word 50 times. Same with nba and college basketball players across the country.
    You could choke on the irony.

    • Bluehender
      7:42 am August 31, 2020 Permalink


  22. UK_fac_boi
    8:49 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    Our fans will be the reason we lose recruits. Players will see our actions and stay away. Can’t say I blame them. I’ve been a Kentucky fan my entire life and alumni, which I’m sure most of you are not. I don’t care what you name it because it’ll probably be Kroger arena in 10 years anyway for the extra revenue. I’m sure this comment section is also mad that Wal-Mart doesn’t sell rebel flags anymore. SMD!

    • runningunnin.454
      10:40 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      I have been nothing but supportive or Keion since the first article about this; not so supportive of Cal for putting him in that situation; nor supportive of the AA and A Faculty who probably know about as much as Keion.
      Yes, I graduated from UK.
      My Great Great Grandfather was a blacksmith, and instrumental in the Underground Railroad; he cut the leg irons off a 17 year old runaway slave named Solomon, and carried him in his buckboard under a blanket to Indiana and freedom. I still have those horrible heavy irons. His four sons served in the Union Army, and two were killed in battle. I have a letter that my Great Grandfather wrote when he was guarding Confederate prisoners In Russellville, Ky. We can debate the issue if you want; but, leave the rebel flag out of it, thank you.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      11:19 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

      RG ALWAYS coming with the facts. BOOM!

      Congrats on getting your wish about the one comment section shutting down FacBoi. What I don’t get is that one was no worse than some others. That’s not saying much but…

  23. wyatts1
    11:14 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    I believe the name change is ignorance and a cause and effect issue from years of bias television shows. Vast majority of actors, athletes, personalities along with just how far left the vast majority of colleges have become has all but messed up generations of bright young men and ladies into robots without critical thinking for themselves. I personally believe a statue should be built for the 17yr old young man who decided to act by protesting the rioters, which almost cost Ed him his brave young life. But when attacked he was prepared!! Its about time to stand up America and put down these people thats rioting, looting, attacking police, attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Its time to get our country back, and defend our community, our families, and our way of life from tyrannical left.

  24. UKgrad80
    11:40 pm August 30, 2020 Permalink

    He may be smart but not very well informed on the facts about Adolph Rupp.

  25. Bobby
    12:16 pm August 31, 2020 Permalink

    If Cal is ok with Brooks sharing his opinion, he should be ok with fans booing Brooks at the games. Potential pro athletes must realize that their political opinions risk losing 1/2 of their fans in this day and time. Smart athletes realize this as do smart business leaders. No one wins.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      1:39 pm August 31, 2020 Permalink

      It’s one thing to have an opinion. But again, it’s quite another to admit you have no idea what the facts are and then state an opinion. It’s like admitting you don’t know beans about economics and then saying tax cuts are bad, or food.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      1:40 pm August 31, 2020 Permalink


  26. Looother
    6:21 pm August 31, 2020 Permalink

    My sources say that Brooks should not opine on things that he’s not fully informed on and willing to stand by.

    He should immediately walk back his ignorant comments…

  27. fredlexky
    11:57 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

    In my opinion, this guys know anything they say will be picked apart and analyzed. Cal has no choice but to stand behind his guys for the sake of the team, but he should be telling them all there here for Basketball, not to start conversations about anything political. Once they leave Kentucky they have all their lives to make remarks about whatever they wish, whether they know anything about the subject or not.