Kernel Opinion SIG

For Kentucky Basketball, this past week has been a fantastic one on the court. After opening the season 1-6 – unacceptably, no matter what Coach Cal says about the schedule – the Cats have managed to rattle off three straight victories to open conference play and bring hope back to what seemed destined to be a lost year. They landed an outstanding transfer from West Virginia for 2021-22, and play for the outright first place spot in the SEC (who thought they’d be in that position?!?!) tonight against Alabama. But instead of celebrating these successes together, we are mired in the latest response to the team’s decision to kneel for the national anthem in their most recent victory.

In case you missed it, the Knox County Fiscal Court drew up a resolution to reallocate their current UK tax funding. In a time where colleges are absolutely starving for money, the leaders of one county find the actions of an extremely small number of those who would be affected by such a measure so appalling that they’re debating punishing thousands for them.

But it’s only one county, you say. And to that, I say: yeah, you’re right… for the time being. We all know how quickly one can turn into two, two into four, so on and so forth. Eventually, you’re dealing a crippling blow to a great number of people attempting to create a better life for themselves and their families.

While that’s important to consider, it’s not the main point of this piece.

Leaders of Knox County, and people across the Commonwealth who are bashing the people of the Men’s Basketball team and other sport squads at the University of Kentucky: YOU ARE NOT LISTENING. And you’ve made it more obvious than it ever was before.

All of the protests from Kentucky athletes the past few months have been to raise awareness of social injustice. Whether it’s the marches, the practice walkout or the video prior to the season, that has been the objective throughout the entirety of their efforts. They have no disrespect toward the flag; they have no disrespect toward America. Through the course of each event, they’ve said as much.

“This is a great country,” Isaiah Jackson said during a press conference.

“We just want people to understand that it’s a peaceful way to protest and the way we can [use our platform],” Olivier Sarr said, also during a press conference. “We just want people to understand to raise awareness and that’s it.”

Read those last three words again: And That’s It.

No disrespect to the flag. No disrespect to America. And the biggest thing of all: no disrespect to the military.

You think you’re the only ones who have had family and friends serve? You’re not.

“Six of these players come from military families. Either their father was in the military, their brother, their uncle, a couple of them, their grandfathers. They were in the military,” Coach Cal said on his weekly radio show. “This wasn’t about the military.”

Yet we see these words yesterday from Knox County judge executive Mike Mitchell on why he felt the need for the resolution, according to the Times-Tribune:

“We’ve got names of people out here on this monument that’s given up their life for this county.”

Going all the way back to September 1, 2016 – when this all started as Colin Kaepernick knelt for the first time – this has NOT BEEN ABOUT THE MILITARY. The only people who think it is are those who have done so on their own accord. Which raises two questions:

Who are we to decide that someone’s actions mean one thing when they tell us repeatedly that they mean another? Who decided that your word automatically trumps theirs concerning things you’re not involved with?

Ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer is the one who suggested kneeling to Kaepernick in order to not be offensive toward the military. An Ex-Green Beret! And every athlete who has kneeled since then has made sure to note it’s not being done to disrespect the military. But you’ve decided for them that it is. Because, as mentioned, you’re not listening.

Ultimately, nobody can dictate how another person feels. If you find it offensive, the players won’t change your mind. Just know that you also won’t change their minds.

Each string you try and pull to make them your puppet won’t take hold. They won’t bend to your pressure. Like steel on steel, it will only sharpen their will and resolve. Just as all the taxes and acts Britain put on the colonies did.

America wouldn’t be where it is today if those people had cowered and given in to the pressure of King George III and Parliament. These people know that things won’t change for the better if they fold to you. Every action you take to try and stronghold them into giving up their fight will be futile.

You can either continue to dismiss their reasoning and potentially risk further division, or open your ears and show a willingness to help healing the cracks this nation has developed.

Let’s be clear: these cracks I refer to aren’t the political ones that reign across our nation. They’re not Democratic or Republican. Radical left or radical right. Or they shouldn’t be, at least. They may have been lumped into the political spectrum just as everything else is nowadays, but look below the surface. They have to do with Americans who believe they’re not on equal footing as other Americans and have a desire for that to be changed.

But we don’t need a revolution to make this change; there’s no need for violence of any kind in the slightest of fashions. We just need to open communication. Raise awareness. Work together to truly understand one another and work together to seal the fissures that have resulted from the increasing tension.

Yes, that paragraph above is supremely cheesy. But I’m not asking everyone to stand, grow your hair out, smoke a joint and sing Kumbaya. Just to do as people would before. To put aside our differences, even if only for a minute, and actually work together instead of immediately dismissing opposing thoughts – the norm in this social media age.

This is what these people, who just happen to be athletes, are trying to do. And in this particular instance, it’s people such as you, Knox County leaders, who are in the way of this conversation starting.

So, please open your ears and stop hating these people for expressing their first amendment right the same way you have. They’re at the table. A chair is there for you to join them. You just have to take a seat.

Is that too much to ask?