Kentucky Recruits ‘Proud’ of John Calipari’s Decision to Kneel

Jason Jordan

When Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah) point guard Nolan Hickman heard about Kentucky coach John Calipari joining his players and kneeling for the national anthem prior to their game against Florida on Jan. 9, he wasn’t surprised, he was “proud.”

Same for Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy combo guard Skyy Clark, who added that the move was one that “was in line” with who he knew Calipari to be.

Forde: Calipari's Decision to Kneel Worth Blowback from Big Blue's Red Base

“He’s gonna make a stand for what’s right,” said Clark, a junior who committed to Kentucky in October. “And he’s always gonna stand with his guys.”

The Wildcats chose the gesture to promote racial equality in response to the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Multiple players referenced the image of a noose hanging outside the Capitol as a motivator for the call for change.

Calipari said the players asked him to kneel with them and he agreed.

“That’s Coach Cal,” said Hickman, a senior who committed to Kentucky in August. “That’s one of the main reasons I decided to go there. He’s riding with the players first. He’s always got our back and this was just another example of that.”

Calipari’s stance was especially important for Clark.

Since the spring, he’s been outspoken about racial inequality, participating in protests and organizing prayer vigils and cleanups following riots.

Clark said that throughout his recruitment, he was always impressed with how Calipari also remained outspoken against racial injustice.

“I always knew that he was the type of coach I wanted to play for,” Clark said. “He always came out and spoke against the things that were going on in this country. He never stayed silent. Seeing him take that knee with the guys just reminds me again of why I chose Kentucky.” 

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