White Privilege and Kentucky Basketball are Synonymous

Perspective matters. Truth matters. Spin is the enemy of the truth.

On Sunday, a highly-regarded Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight by the University of North Carolina. Freshman Malik Monk hit a contested three-pointer with two UNC players draped all over him to tie the game at 73-73 apiece with little time  remaining. UNC’s Theo Pinson took the ball inbounds and dribbled through UK’s defenders to find forward Luke Maye on the perimeter, who calmly nailed a long two-point shot that gave Carolina the victory.

Every year, someone loses a heart-breaker in the NCAA tournament. And every year, the predominantly white student body at some of America’s greatest institutions take to the streets to riot and show their disapproval of the game’s outcome. This also happens a great deal during college football’s bowl season as well.

But for Kentucky, this has become something of a habit. Back in 2015, 31 people were arrested near their Lexington campus  after losing to the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four.  They also raised hell after a postseason loss in 2012.

Lexington, Kentucky, the very city in which President Donald J. Trump spoke about how real Americans stand for the flag while dissing NFL QB Colin Kaepernick for his protest action, is itself a bastion for protest.  (Editorial: Donald Trump actually visited Louisville not Lexington, Ky)

The Lexington Herald Leader published several videos documenting what went down after the Kentucky loss. One was a scene that showed a crowd of Wildcat fans in a circle chanting, “We want the couch,” as a young man attempts to set a pile of debris on fire. Another story on the site, which mentioned a couch fire, discussed how quickly the fire department responded and nothing of who actually set it. Yet another story mentioned how Lexington police, who were armed in riot gear, responded to a small street fire.

Not one of the these stories or videos mentioned the words riot or thugs. It’s not a curious omission but a blatant one when we consider that rioters and protesters who are fighting for the rights of oppressed and disfranchised are immediately bombarded with negative shots across the bow; “thugs”, “savages” and “animals” are but a few.

Unlike members of numeric minorities living within a democracy, Wildcats basketball fans are the very epitome of entitlement and really always have been. Back in the ’50s, their lionized legend Adolph Rupp was an admitted racist. Now the program has a lock on the majority of the very best high school basketball players in the nation, most of them Black.

In 2007, the University of Kentucky practically forced then head coach Tubby Smith out. What did he do wrong?

Well, after leading the Wildcats to an NCAA Championship in 1998, Smith “only” managed three Elite Eights, two Sweet Sixteen appearances, five SEC regular season titles, five SEC tournament championships and avoided getting bounced in the first round of the Big Dance during his entire time there. That’s all.  

Yet, he was criticized for everything from his slow-down style of play and emphasis on defense, to his inability to land big-time talent via recruiting.

Their shortsightedness manifested itself in their next hire, as Billy Gillespie was fired only two years later. Privilege is a strange thing.

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Having it may lead one to believe they deserve certain perks because of who they are. When we apply that to the University of Kentucky fanbase, with a student body that is 76 percent white and ranks #1741 nationally in ethnic diversity, basketball privilege and white privilege are virtually inseparable. It represents an interesting study of what type of behavior to expect when the have’s suddenly become the have-nots.

And what does the average Kentucky basketball fan receive when the Wildcats reach the mountain top?  A sense of pride?  Some Kentucky basketball gear?  Maybe they all get a little key chain with a basketball on it?

Hows about simple bragging rights.  Meanwhile, civil disturbances that take place as protest actions against oppression are the result of hundreds of years of policies and actions against people of color in America, Blacks in particular, are deemed unacceptable and struck down with extreme prejudice?

Tell me more about how white privilege doesn’t exist in every facet of American society.

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