Following days of unrest throughout the country, University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart is speaking out via video message, which was posted Wednesday evening. In the video, he apologizes for the delay, saying he’s spent the past several days processing his thoughts and emotions before releasing an official statement. In the clip, he says he’s had conversations with his pastor, coworkers, family and UK student athletes, and he spent seven hours on Monday trying to put his thoughts into written words.
Barnhart’s days of tough conversations and hours of writing culminated in a six-minute video, posted now on the Kentucky Wildcats TV YouTube channel. In his message, Barnhart discusses the racial injustices felt by African Americans in this country, and how the university will use its guiding principles of character, integrity, education, stewardship and competition to make necessary improvements within the campus, throughout the BBN and beyond the fanbase.
“The senseless tragedy in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery has brought pain, confusion, hurt, anger and many other emotions which are undeniable and understandable,” Barnhart says in the video. “It is through our principles we must find a different path as we navigate some really, really difficult waters.”
“Our family – student athletes, coaches, staff and fans – are hurting on many fronts. Empathy for those emotions and wounds is necessary for any healing and change to occur,” Barnhart continues. “I’ve been in college athletics for 38 years, and I believe in the unique power of sports to unite people. I also believe in the beautiful hearts and intentions and influence of people; I believe in the greater good of people. I refuse to accept betrayal of that greater good.”
Throughout the message, Barnhart also emphasizes the importance of choosing five-letter words – “peace, faith, grace and truth” – over certain four-letter ones, including “pain, hate and fear.”
“We aspire to choose peace over panic, [and] faith over fear,” Barnhart says. “The truth will offend us at times, and it should. But the truth, plus grace, equals love. And we have to live out a message of love to our neighbors to live in peace.”
Barnhart acknowledges the university is home to over 500 student athletes, which certainly comes with a unique set of challenges, but emphasizes change can happen one person at a time.
“We will work with our UK family to introduce them to each other and get to know each other one person at a time. To throw a pebble in the pond, and watch the ripple of influence as we go from a locker room to department, from department to campus, to a community, to the BBN and beyond our borders. We have influence, and I have faith it is for a greater good.”
Barnhart wrapped up his message with a push for unity and faith, using well-known words from Martin Luther King Jr. and verses from the Bible.
“I have faith in a loving God and the greater good of men and women to find empathy with each other’s journey and walk the staircase and the spirit of love together. In the end, as it was said, people won’t remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. We will walk the staircase together.”
You can watch Barnhart’s entire message below, as posted on the Kentucky Wildcats TV YouTube channel:
Barnhart’s statement follows the unified statement released by UK Athletics, which calls on the Big Blue Nation “to join us: listen, hear, empathize, act, support our black student-athletes, just as you do when they represent us in competition.”