The head of the University of Kentucky's basketball media relations department banned the university's student newspaper from Tuesday's media interviews with the team.
DeWayne Peevy, UK's associate athletics director for media relations, rescinded an invitation to the Kernel's basketball writer for the interviews after learning that he had contacted two students rumored to be walk-ons this fall on the basketball team. The reporter, Peevy said, broke the university's unwritten policy barring media from interviewing student-athletes without first going through UK's media relations teams.
The decision to ban the writer "is so clearly a violation of First Amendment rights for the university to condition access on gathering or publishing information the way the university wants you to do it," said Kentucky First Amendment lawyer Jon Fleischaker.
The dispute began when Kernel sportswriter and managing editor Aaron Smith found the phone numbers in UK's student directory for walk-ons Brian Long and Sam Malone after seeing them named in a post on Kentuckysportsradio.com and mentioned in a Twitter post by UK freshman basketball player Anthony Davis. UK basketball coach John Calipari has since posted on Twitter that the two are indeed walk-ons.
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"He only asked the question, 'Are you a walk-on on the basketball team?'" Kernel editor in chief Taylor Moak said. "They said yes. He said, 'Would you be willing to talk now or later today?,' and they said no."
Peevy told the Herald-Leader on Monday night that Smith's second question overstepped the boundaries of the "understanding between the media members and the University of Kentucky," which allows student-athletes to be students and not "be bombarded with interview requests constantly."
Peevy rescinded Smith's invitation to an event in which he and other members of select media outlets would meet all of the basketball players and have eight minutes of time alone with each of them. Information from the interviews is not to be published until Oct. 1. Peevy said it's an opportunity given only to select media "to test some of my guys out."
The Kernel's access for the season is not being pulled, he said — "We're just not inviting them to tomorrow's session."
"They'll get access to the same players later," he said.
Moak said Smith shouldn't be "punished for calling a student-athlete, because we're students, too. ... It wasn't like UK had come out and said we have these two new walk-ons."
She said, too, that Peevy used the word "punishment" in telling Smith that he was rescinding the invitation; Peevy told the Herald-Leader he used the term "for lack of a better word."
Fleischaker said the rescinding of the invitation makes it clear that Peevy "took action because he didn't like what was published."
"That's the essence of it," he said. "There's no way around it. He shouldn't do that."
Earlier this year on Twitter, Peevy appeared to suggest that CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish would not receive a UK basketball credential this year after publishing a column on questions previously raised about Davis' recruitment to UK.
Moak said the Kernel editors have not yet decided whether to pursue legal action over what they say is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
Fleischaker said that even if the Kernel did, "it wouldn't make sense," because the issue is "come and gone."
"But that doesn't make it right," he said. "It's especially wrong for a university to act that way."
Jay Blanton, the university's top spokesman, declined to address the matter, saying, "That is an issue for Athletics that their media relations can handle."