Could Kentucky basketball’s historic Rupp Arena receive a name change?
The Faculty of the African-American and Africana Studies (AAAS) program at the University of Kentucky has asked the school to do so.
In a letter submitted to UK president Eli Capilouto, the AAAS program has called for Rupp Arena’s name to be changed as part of the school’s push for improved race relations on campus, with the faculty noting that Adolph Rupp’s name “has come to stand for racism.”
“The University should rename Rupp Arena,” the letter reads. “The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees. The rebuilding of the arena and the convention center offer an opportunity to change the name to a far more inclusive one, such as Wildcat Arena. In addition, the University should survey all campus buildings and remove all names of enslavers, Confederate sympathizers (such as William C.P. Breckinridge), and other white supremacists.”
The Rupp Arena name change is one of the many changes the faculty is pushing for on campus, including the following:
- Ensure that UK and its contractors maintain the current percentages of Black staff at every level as we weather the current financial environment and commit to increasing diversity among the staff at all levels.
- Require a course on race and inequality for all undergraduates
- The University must increase Black representation among faculty to 15%, which reflects the Black population of Lexington
- Appoint more Black faculty and staff to leadership positions
- Increase support for Black students
- Establish a system or systems of accountability for individuals who commit racist and other acts of discrimination on campus
- Fund the new Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies
- Join the Universities Studying Slavery collective and initiate a major study of the histories of slavery and racism within the institution
- Institute a policy that minimizes its cooperation with federal state and local law enforcement agencies including Immigration Customs and Enforcement (I.C.E) and the Lexington Police Department
Back in January, UK announced a partnership with Central Bank, with the latter purchasing the naming rights to the Lexington Center adjacent to Rupp Arena. As a result, the entire Rupp Arena complex’s name was changed to “Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.”
At the time, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart met with the media to stress how important it was to keep the Rupp Arena name as-is.
“The name is tied to Coach Rupp and the Rupp family is so important for us, to protect that name and to make sure it is always remembered as the iconic place, family, name, leader of college basketball. Thank you for that. We intend to preserve that forever.”
“It has to be Rupp Arena,” Barnhart continued. “When you’re recruiting, when you’re having teams come in here to play and people come in here, this is Rupp Arena. It’s set apart from all other places. … This one’s been this way for almost 50 years, and it can’t change.”
“Rupp Arena; to different people, it means different things, but to the Rupp family, it takes on a special significance,” Chip Rupp, Adolph’s son, added at the time. “For many, it’s just a place where the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team plays, but for us, we view Rupp Arena as a symbol that acknowledges the time that my grandfather spent coaching with the University of Kentucky, the program that he built, the standard of excellence that surrounds the University of Kentucky basketball program. That’s what Rupp Arena means to us.
“Over the past four decades, the name has come to mean even more. Rupp Arena symbolizes the unmatched tradition of this great program and protecting that name has been very important to the family over the years. We know that these types of partnerships occur all the time with not the same regard and respect that we were treated with in this process. We’re grateful to everyone involved in the process for understanding this and embracing it from the very beginning.”
The complete letter submitted to Capilouto can be found here.