Kentucky Football made a big statement on Thursday afternoon, deciding not to practice in protest of the continued social injustice in the United States.
The move comes after NBA playoff games on Wednesday and Thursday were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks’ strike of its game five contest with the Orlando Magic led each of the other teams in the bubble to do the same. Three MLB games on Wednesday night and seven scheduled for this evening were also postponed due to player protest strikes.
Josh Paschal and Luke Fortner, two members of the team’s unity council, addressed the media earlier this evening. The opening statements they shared are below:
Paschal: "We’ve decided to use this time we’ve been given today to address something more important than football. As a power-five football team, we come from all different backgrounds, and have come together to turn awareness into action. In the recent events involving police brutality, the team stands together knowing that there is a problem in this country. Playing for Coach Stoops, mean that have a player’s coach. We have a coach that empathizes and hurts with us while having our best interests at heart. The administration at the university has been great about listening and offering any help that they can. Coach Stoops has made it known that he is with us."
"Our team has been a prime example of how our community should be. We may have different beliefs or values, but we work together for one goal. We’ve never had a problem with this team splitting with this issue because we are a brotherhood, and we know we are more than athletes because on this team we are treated as such. This is how we want others to see us as well."
it is bigger than football atp 🙏🏾 some people just dont get it!— AJ Rose Jr (@ajrose_10) August 27, 2020
Fortner: "This isn’t an issue for just our black teammates. It’s an issue that involves all of our players, and should involve all of our friends and community. We realize that as athletes we have a platform, and we’ve decided, as a team, that we’ll use this platform for positive change."
"What does this mean? It means that we are not just gonna tweet a hashtag. We plan on continuing our volunteer service with emphasis on youth minorities in the community. We plan on opening dialogue with the Lexington police, and inviting an open conversation. We plan on making this a consistent effort, not something that dies down in just a week."
This is the team’s second major protest of the year. In early June, the Wildcats marched from the Hilton Hotel to Courthouse Plaza donning Black Lives Matter shirts following the death of George Floyd.
As Paschal said, Coach Stoops has been behind his players 100% throughout each action they have taken. He reinforced his support on Twitter:
I want to help our players align their beliefs with their opportunities.I’m proud that they care not just for themselves, but also for the people around them and the communities where they live. https://t.co/SDLMjOCJyW— Mark Stoops (@UKCoachStoops) August 27, 2020
Many Kentucky athletes, both current and former, have expressed a desire for change over social media in the wake of the incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin involving Jacob Blake:
WE DEMAND JUSTICE!!!— Jamal Murray (@BeMore27) August 26, 2020
BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL!! WE DEMAND CHANGE!!— Jarred Vanderbilt (@JVando) August 26, 2020
Shoot Hoops, Not People. pic.twitter.com/loHk0XJsvo— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) August 26, 2020
We need CHANGE! Change can NOT wait!— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) August 26, 2020
Black Lives Matter ✊🏾— Lynn Bowden Jr (@LynnBowden_1) August 27, 2020
Each of these human beings have made incredible efforts to fight for what they believe in, and in the process, have gives us all a true demonstration of the American spirit.
Kassidy Stumbo and Eric Decker contributed to this story.