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Kentucky Should Rename Rupp Arena

by Todd A. Smith

 

Rupp Arena Should Undergo Rechristening

 

The last couple of years have seen resurgence in consciousness in the Black community.


We have fought to remove Confederate flags from government buildings, Confederate statutes from college campuses and Confederate names from street signs.


However, very few, if any people, talk about renaming college sports arenas that honor fabulous coaches, but less than fabulous men when it comes to race relations like legendary University of Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp.


According to RuppArena.com the venue is, “Recognized as an epicenter of sports excellence, Rupp Arena, is renowned for its storied history, marquee matchups, and year-round top-quality events and entertainment.  Named for legendary college basketball coach Adolph Rupp, the arena opened its doors in 1976 is owned and operated by the Lexington Center Corporation.”


Coach Rupp was legendary in every sense of the word when it comes to coaching greatness.


According to ESPN, “He coached 42 years at Kentucky, winning 82 percent of his games, 27 Southeastern Conference titles and four NCAA championships.  Four times he was chosen the national coach of the year.”


However, when it comes to race relations during the Civil Rights Movement, his record was much less than championship caliber.


While coaching the Kentucky Wildcats he believed that Blacks could never compete on the basketball court with White players.


He boldly claimed one night at the 1966 Final Four that no “colored boys” could beat his Kentucky team, which was number one in the nation at that time.


Rupp vowed to never have a Black Kentucky basketball player even after losing the 1966 national championship 72-65 to Texas Western College who only played Black players in the title game.


He finally relented and recruited Tom Payne, Kentucky’s first African-American basketball player, who appeared in Rupp’s next to last year on the sidelines in Lexington, Ky. during the 1970-71 season.


Instead of commending the Texas Western Miners on their historic championship, he went to his grave still bitter about that defeat to a bunch of “ineligible players and crooks” according to the Houston Chronicle.


ESPN reported that Rupp referred to the Texas Western players as “coons” during a halftime speech.


He even told his players that Texas Western star David Lattin from Houston had spent time in a Tennessee state penitentiary when in actuality he had simply transferred from Tennessee State University, a historically Black college.


Rupp was convinced that the Miners were simply thugs, criminals and outlaws, not student-athletes.


Furthermore, Rupp refused to recruit the nation’s best high school basketball player Connie Hawkins when he discovered that Hawkins was African-American.


To his credit, Rupp did allow one African-American to play for him when he coached high school basketball.


He also allowed Don Harksdale to play in the Olympics despite being African-American.


Some like journalist Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believe Rupp was only a victim of the times and not as bigoted as portrayed.


However, to those who use the era as an excuse for bigotry even during slavery and segregation there were many White Americans who did not succumb to the ignorance of racial hatred.


While many African-Americans were sold from one plantation to the next, many White abolitionists fought voraciously to end servitude in this country.


While many African-Americans were lynched and assassinated for attempting to receive equal and voting rights, many White civil rights leaders gave their lives to the cause as well.


Being a victim of the times is not being a victim at all and Rupp’s birth in 1901 did not give him a pass from being a decent individual.


Luckily, times have changed and 50 years after Texas Western destroyed this nation’s belief in White superiority on the basketball court, America is trying to right the wrongs of the past.


One more way to right the wrongs of racism and bigotry is to rename Rupp Arena.


And with all of the Black basketball stars dominating the floor at Rupp Arena over the last 40 years, I am sure Rupp would not mind at all.


This article was published on Friday 25 March, 2016.
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