Kentucky men’s head basketball coach John Calipari is getting some online backlash for a halftime interview he conducted last Saturday with ESPN’s Holly Rowe. While answering Rowe’s questions he put his hands on her shoulders in a way to illustrate his point. Many people on the internet were unhappy.
“Did we miss three open shots? We did. That’s why we were down 8-0,” Calipari said. “Then you get in the huddle and say, ‘We’re alright. We just missed open shots. Keep playing.'”
— Joey Yanks (@YanksJoey) January 14, 2023
Did Social Media Overreact To John Calipari Touching Holly Rowe?
The reactions were varied with some people calling the moment cringe. Others used words like assault and harassment.
Some users on Twitter turned it into a joke saying ESPN and Rowe “filed charges” against Calipari for “inappropriate touching.”
ESPN and Holly Rowe have filed charges against Kentucky coach John Calipari for his inappropriate touching of Rowe during the halftime interview at the Tennessee game today.
A warrant has been issued by Knoxville PD for his arrest. pic.twitter.com/bCqzzlpxXQ
— Richard G. West (@RGW_News) January 14, 2023
Rowe hasn’t commented about it, and if you read her body language she didn’t look uncomfortable.
Now you can easily make the argument that in a professional setting, there was no need for Calipari to touch Rowe on the shoulders.
Rowe has been an ESPN reporter and journalist since 1998 and is one of the more recognizable figures in sports media.
Calipari has been head coach at Kentucky since 2009 and was the head coach at Memphis before that from 2000-09. It’s highly likely that he and Rowe have crossed paths countless times. It’s even likely that they are friendly.
Perhaps it was a moment where Calipari, who has been interviewed by Rowe countless times, felt comfortable and had his guard down.
Rowe has not said anything about this, and that’s the person we should be monitoring. As mentioned, she’s one of the more recognizable and tenured professionals in media and she works for the biggest media company. If this was an issue, she could have and would have made it one.
Workplaces need to be safe and people need to feel safe doing their jobs. But this isn’t a case of workplace harassment or a powerful coach preying on a journalist as some internet trolls have suggested.
We’ve gone too far down certain lanes and people on the internet are doing performative outrage for clout. The danger in that is that it hurts real victims in real situations.
Kentucky ultimately won the game and upset fifth-ranked Tennessee. A win the struggling 11-6 Wildcats desperately needed.
“They made a commitment to each other that they would fight this game,” said Calipari, who could tell in the afterglow that a weight had been lifted off his players. “I was doing everything I could. I was trying to put it all on my shoulders, but I know when you’re at Kentucky (it’s hard). My guess is a lot of fans from other programs are hoping we die. And they shut that TV off today. They are so mad.”
When you’re Calipari and you coach at Kentucky, expectations are huge ever year. That’s the job. He knows it and there are no excuses. His recruiting hasn’t been as elite in years past, and frankly there are more options for truly elite prep players. But Saturday’s win shouldn’t be overshadowed by a non-issue.