Prior to tipoff in its game against Florida on Saturday, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team along with its entire coaching staff took a knee during the national anthem in protest of the violence inthe nation’s capitol just days earlier.
The move was met with swift criticism across Big Blue Nation on social media, including now-viral videos of a Laurel County jailer and sheriff burning their UK wares in protest of the event. On Monday, Knox County’s government made the airwaves by announcing a protest of its own.
The Knox County Fiscal Court released a resolution Monday, voted on and approved by all members of the court, including Judge-Executive Mike Mitchell as a call of action to denounce the basketball team and staff for refusing to stand during the national anthem. “This action lacks respect for the veterans that have served our country,” the resolution states.
In the resolution, the Fiscal Court called on “Governor Andy Beshear, Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, Speaker of the House of Representatives David Osborne and all House of Representatives members as well as all members of the Kentucky Senate” to take notice and take action during the current legislative session to reallocate tax funding from “unpatriotic recipients” and give to “hard working Kentucky taxpayers across this Commonwealth.”
The action was to serve as notice of the voice of Knox County taxpayers and taxpayers’ voices across Kentucky be heard disapproving of the team’s conduct.
Commenting on the resolution to The Mountain Advocate, Judge-Executive Mike Mitchell said, “The University of Kentucky is an outstanding educational institution that provides many vital services throughout this commonwealth. In no way is this resolution directed towards anyone but the UK Basketball team.” Mitchell went on to say “This Resolution specifically addresses the UK men’s basketball team’s actions to disrespect our country by refusing to stand during the National Anthem.”
Newly-sworn in 86th District State Representative Tom O’Dell Smith issued a statement as well. “I stand with the Knox County Fiscal Court Resolution. It was embarrassing to see the UK Basketball team protest in another state while representing Kentucky. No matter how you feel about having the right to protest, it was wrong to stage this event on a National stage and mostly on a day we were having a National appreciation day for our great law enforcement. I stand with the law enforcement and I personally believe every citizen should stand for our Great National Anthem. I represent the 86th District and feel the majority I represent believe the National Anthem is a symbol of those whose have died for our freedom. I’m against burning the flag, burning the Bible and kneeling for the National Anthem period.”
The decision by the Fiscal Court to issue the proclamation quickly made the news statewide, with several television stations sharing the story. Reactions by followers of The Mountain Advocate on social media were widespread, with many agreeing with the court’s action as well several indicating it was a waste of time.
Defending the team’s actions, UK President Eli Capilouto and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart issued a joint statement declaring, “A value we all hold dear in our country is the right of free speech and self-expression. “That right for young students such as these is important, too, as they learn, grow, and find out who they are and what they believe. We won’t always agree on every issue. However, we hope to agree about the right of self-expression, which is so fundamental to who we are as an institution of higher learning. We live in a polarized and deeply divided country. Our hope -- and that of our players and our coaches -- is to find ways to bridge divides and unify.”