Kentucky forward Keion Brooks Jr. is still learning about Adolph Rupp and his history at the university.
In the meantime, however, he is all for changing the name of the Wildcats’ arena.
“Being honest, I haven’t educated myself well enough on Adolph Rupp or just the whole situation at hand to really give you my thoughts on it,” Brooks said Friday, via ESPN. “From what I do know, I would like to see a name change just basically because of what his name is and what that’s connected to and what that kind of represents. I would like to see a name change.”
A push for Rupp Arena’s name change
Faculty members in Kentucky’s African American and Africana Studies department sent the university president a letter earlier this summer asking for the arena to undergo a name change.
The arena, named after former coach Adolph Rupp, “has come to stand for racism and exclusion” and “alienates Black students, fans and attendees,” they said.
Rupp coached at the school from 1930-72, compiling an 876-190 record and winning four national titles with the Wildcats. He retired as the sports’ most winningest coach at the time, and is undoubtedly one of the best college basketball coaches in history.
He has also been accused of making racist statements and refusing to integrate his team or recruit Black players at all. His all-white team famously lost the national championship game in 1966 to Texas-Western’s all-Black starting five, and made incredibly racist statements during that game, according to Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, who was allowed into the locker room at halftime.
The push for a name change comes amid massive movements in social justice and police reform throughout the sports world following the death of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake.
“The faculty of the African American [and] Africana Studies Program and the Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies offer our support to Keion Brooks, Jr.,” the group of faculty members said in a statement to ESPN on Friday. “He courageously supported our call to change the name of Rupp Arena. Mr. Brooks has made this stand knowing full well the vitriol he will face from a segment of University of Kentucky sports fans.
“Mr. Brooks is already a leader on these issues as a member of the [SEC Council on Racial Equality and Social Justice]. We welcome Mr. Brooks, his teammates, Coach Calipari, and his staff to meet with us to educate him and others further about why Rupp’s name should be removed from the arena. Finally, we encourage Mr. Brooks, student-athletes, and students interested in these issues to consider enrolling in our Race and Sports class in Spring 2021.”
Brooks, who is a member of the SEC’s Racial Equality and Social Justice Council, is set to enter his second year with the program this year.
And as more and more athletes are speaking out about societal issues, Brooks isn’t going to stay quiet.
“I think people have a difficult time separating the athlete from the sport that they play,” Brooks said, via ESPN. “Just because I go and play basketball … that does not mean I don’t have morals and values and opinions and views on certain things. We have strong views on topics just like the fans do … They just want us to go out there, entertain them for an hour or two and shut up.
“But that’s not going to work. That’s not how this is.”
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