Coach Cal's gift to Obama draws fans' ire

jtipton@herald-leader.comSeptember 4, 2009 

Basketball and politics — two of Kentucky's favorite subjects — converged Thursday when University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari said he would send a UK jersey to President Barack Obama.

Apparently enough fans objected to the gift that the UK coach felt compelled to post an explanation on his Facebook page.

"Folks — I think everyone is missing my intention of sending a jersey to the President," Calipari wrote. "There was NOTHING political about it — it was simply a way of spreading the word of Big Blue Nation into the White House! I apologize if I offended anyone — that was not my intention. I know politics and sports don't mix, but a friend offered to give Bounce Back to the President and we figured we could send along a jersey as well."

Calipari's book, Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life, was released in August.

Calipari first told fans about the jersey gesture on Wednesday. On his CoachCal.com Web site, he held up the No. 44 jersey and asked fans to guess where he planned to send it. Later Calipari turned the jersey around to reveal the name "Obama" on the back.

Two hours after his apology, Calipari made another post explaining why critical fan comments had been removed from the Web site. David Scott, the editor of CoachCal.com, said fans used "bad language" in their postings.

When asked if the fan objections could be linked to racial or political factors, Scott said, "You can probably draw your own conclusions. There's a lot of opinion out there."

Scott said that Calipari sought unity of purpose in his coaching and in the book.

In his explanation, Calipari wrote, "I deleted the original post because there were comments not appropriate for this Facebook page. I hope we can all understand that what I'm trying to do every day I occupy this seat is to let more and more people know what special places our university and our commonwealth are. Now, back to basketball."

Some people applauded Calipari's gesture.

"Don't sweat it, coach. You're doing a fine job," one fan wrote.

Another fan suggested that Sarah Palin would look good in the shirt.

As several who commented pointed out, this wasn't the first time that a UK coach got into political hot water. Then-UK coach Rick Pitino irritated some fans by appearing on stage with President Bill Clinton near the end of the 1996 presidential election.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service