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John Calipari listening and learning about racial inequality

John Calipari knows players, from left, like Tyler Herro,  PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson have made his career and he feels he has to speak out now about racial inequality in fairness to them.

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — John Calipari is listening and learning.

The Kentucky coach took part in a discussion on race relations during a webinar sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He joined former Oregon coach Ernie Kent, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and Ron Hunter of Tulane. Frank Martin of South Carolina and Pat Chambers of Penn State also were part of the discussion.

Like many coaches, Calipari is trying to gain more understanding on the issues at hand and wants to help make a difference in improving race relations.

“People said I shouldn’t talk — ‘You don’t understand, you don’t get it.’ That’s why that statement, I understand I may never understand, but I stand with you,” Calipari said. “But here’s the thing I felt. All these players that have carried me and my family, I think I need to speak. All these players who have put me and my family and my children in that position, I think I need to speak. There will be people made on both sides. They’re mad I’m even saying anything. Have at it. I don’t know what to say to you.”

Sampson praised Calipari’s interest in joining the fight against racism and inequality.

“(When) white people start fighting against racism, it becomes important to you,” he said. “When it becomes more important to you than it is to us … that’s when I know we’ve got a chance.”

The NABC has released a list of recommendations for college coaches to follow, including in-person or virtual meetings to discuss current events and racial injustice, establishing election day as an annual team day off in order to help student-athletes register to vote, holding in-person and virtual meetings with local law enforcement and community leaders and encouraging teams to be advocates on campus and society in general.

Calipari hinted at pressing administrators at Kentucky to start a diversity fellowship program to help African-Americans succeed at the collegiate level.

“I come from a poor background,” Calipari said. “Where I am now is based on African-American families trusting me with their child. Families of color trusting me with their child to dream their dreams, their hopes, their desires, and understand, and I feel it’s important to step up with whatever comes back to me and really think this through.

“Now one of the things I can tell you is that police brutality and ideas of policing and the criminal justice system, I don’t think I have the ability to influence,” he said. “I can donate to those funds, which I do. But my area of influence — my little corner of where I can do something — is my own players, keeping them safe. Having security talking to my team. It’s also about telling them they have a voice. Educate yourself. Know what you stand for and what you can do.”

In addition to educating each other on racism, Calipari said the start of change begins beyond the realm of sports.

“You can’t have it top down telling us how to act,” Calipari said. “It’s got to be bubbled up from the bottom, it’s got to come grassroots. How many of us on this call looked at somebody and they weren’t real comfortable with them? All of a sudden, they got in their company and they talked and they said I really like that guy.”

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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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  1. Coach, racism exists on both the black and white side of America. To deny that is intellectually dishonest. I say the right fix is for both black and white people to just obey the laws of the land, respect a police officer, and you will be just fine as a citizen. Severely punish bad Cops, and award the good ones. Not many people who complain about our Cops today could do their job and definitely would not put their life on the line daily either. Let’s set down and reason together like good people do, and come up with sensible solutions for all Americans before we loot and burn anymore cities, how about that.? The “Black Lives Matter” movement is racism on steriods. I just heard that our Kentucky Gov, Andy Bashear, wants to give all blacks free health care. Hey Gov, what about all the poor white people in the state? Who speaks and pays for them? Many people are sadly making this all about race, and it is becoming more dangerous every day for all of us as this narrative is perpetuated. Who pays for all this free stuff Coach? I tell you who will pay, hard working tax payers, both back and white ones will.

    I say a return to God, and trusting in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is the best path forward for all men. Why? Because He deals with the heart of man and changes them from the inside out. He is also color blind, as we should be too. If this keeps going the way this is going in America this morning, our country will fall. These protests are not about George Floyd anymore. It is about “Defunding the Police” and left wing politics this morning. If that ever happens you can kiss our cites and towns goodby. This is now about taking down a duly elected President who has done much for the black communities in America by creating record breaking jobs, and freeing black people from prison. Oh by the way, These protesters are not practicing social distancing, which is a farce now, all while many Americans today can’t even go back to work, or even bury their dead. Something is very wrong coming from the left today. Keep it up and America will collapse from within, which is their objective, i. e. ANTIFA’s and left wing radical socialists’. Fire up the rally’s Mr. President! If protesters can stand should shoulder to shoulder, so can voters.

  2. Larry, You are so right!! Thanks for sharing,

  3. Pup, thank you for saying what could not have been said any better. The Black Lives Matter movement should read All Lives Matter. Six people died in 2019 while being restrained by police and they were all black. That should never happen. A focused effort needs to be made to identify bullies who think a badge and a gun gives them the right to be mean and put them in jail. Chauvin needs to be hanged on the courthouse square. The other 3 officers should do some time for not stopping this.
    FBI stats show that 90% of black homicide victims were killed by other blacks. Why are these protests not addressing this much larger issue? Most of this happens in poorer neighborhoods. The way to address this is not with another handout program. Start with building or renovating schools in black neighborhoods. Pay higher salaries to teachers in those schools and give them bonuses for demonstrated performance. Have one resource officer for every 100 kids and pay them well. This needs to start at the kindergarten level through high school. Give them guaranteed scholarships to junior college. This will give these kids a better shot at getting better jobs. Better jobs equates to better citizens and stronger families.
    Where are all of these jobs going to come from? How about in rebuilding our country’s infrastructure? Our electric, water, and sewer systems are falling apart. So are our bridges, roads, and dams. This is a massive rebuilding project that is long overdue.
    A second major initiative needs to be focused on eradicating our nation’s drug problem including prescription opioids and alcohol. This is a cancer to all of society.
    How will we pay for all of this. Lets start by getting out of all of these never ending wars and let those people solve their own problems. Lets greatly reduce foreign aid to the world and redirect it to our own pressing needs. Will that be enough, I don’t know, but it would be a good start.

  4. hyamo37221 and 33, thanks. I’m glad we can agree on some very important issues of our day.

  5. Pup, maybe you should run for office in the house or senate. Too many lifers there voting their pocketbook. We need real people there, not politicians. The first thing that needs to be passed is term limits.

    1. I agree with your lifer statement. Me a politician? LOL.

  6. Thats why you would be good at it. You would work to fix things instead of just skim money off of every bill that passes.

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