Rex Chapman is a former Kentucky basketball star, a willing role model for others wanting to overcome drug addiction, a commentator on UK’s pregame radio show and … a political pundit?
Chapman has recently — and unabashedly — tweeted anti-Donald Trump views.
For instance, he used Twitter to ask: “Is there a D-league for presidential administrations?”
Or this tweet comparing Arizona Sen. John McCain to the president: “McCain speaks. Now, Trump. Since when is the varsity game played before the JV game?”
Or this inclusion of Trump in a rogues’ gallery: “They’re all working together — Trump, Putin, OJ.”
Predictably, these tweets brought a negative reaction.
“Rexchapman, you ain’t sexy rexy anymore,” Tracey Fielder Kerr tweeted. “Stay humble and quit your political BS.”
Another response came from Jacob Adcock, who tweeted, “I just expect more from a Kentucky great. Would love to hear your basketball opinions. They are awesome. But, politically, you are misguided.”
When asked to comment on his surprising dive into the deep end of the political pool, Chapman demurred.
“I’ll take a pass on this one,” he wrote in an email response to an interview request. “I should be quiet about it all probably.”
Probably? Make that definitely, say several people experienced in sports broadcasting.
Paul Archey, the president of University of Kentucky Sports and Marketing for JMI, the holder of UK’s radio rights, said the company has a policy forbidding its on-air personalities from publicly espousing views about political figures or issues.
“We’re in the business of servicing sports fans,” he said. “We’re in the sports business.”
Jim Host, the former longtime guiding light in the radio broadcasts of UK games, said he also had such a don’t-go-there policy. This even applied to Cawood Ledford, who reached iconic status in 39 seasons calling UK basketball games. Host recalled Ledford asking him for advice about a possible endorsement. Don’t do it, Host said he told Ledford.
When asked why he set a policy of avoiding politics, Host said, “You have to understand all Republicans and all Democrats in Kentucky are UK fans. … You don’t want half of them being mad at you, and therefore mad at UK.”
It should be noted that in the 2016 presidential election Trump carried every Kentucky county except Jefferson and Fayette.
As the tweets by Fielder Kerr and Adcock made plain, fans generally do not like politics mixed with their games. They see sports as a respite from the incessant political wrangling in this polarized country.
“It’s not unique to us,” Archey said. He pointed out how Curt Schilling, Rush Limbaugh and Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder lost sports commentary jobs because of non-sports bloviating.
Duke play-by-play announcer Bob Harris, who retired in the spring after 41 seasons on the broadcast, said it was wrong for a sports commentator to go public with political views.
“A person on a broadcast is not a political expert,” Harris said, “or an expert on a lot of things. That’s just me. I never felt comfortable hearing or seeing someone come out with comments that are purely their feeling at the time.”
Chapman tweeted about the now famous meeting Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort took with Russians promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton: “If the 8th person in the room is a gym teacher from Poughkeepsie — no sweat. If he’s a Russian money-launder — alotta sweat.”
Or this: “We knew we wouldn’t be winning with Trump. Few anticipated tho we’d be not-winning in such grand fashion.”
Although JMI prohibits on-air personalities from commenting publicly about political subjects, Archey pointed out that, technically, Chapman is not subject to the policy. Chapman’s one-year contract expired at the end of last season.
Archey said he plans to have Chapman on UK’s pregame shows again next season. There’s a bit of irony in why.
“For me, what makes Rex ideal for our pregame show is the obvious,” Archey said. “Being kind of a legend. His knowledge. But also his personality. Rex, he’s not a wallflower. I wanted someone to have an opinion.”
With Kentucky announcing last week that it will double the price students pay for a game ticket next season (from $5 to $10), a question arose: How does UK’s price compare with other top programs?
When it comes to how much students must pay to watch top-level college basketball, Duke might be the best bargain. Duke does not charge its students for game tickets nor require them to pay an activity fee. (Plus, Duke’s student section is a prime viewing area extending behind the sideline opposite the benches.)
North Carolina does not charge students for game tickets, but UNC students must pay a $279 activity fee. (UK students pay a $7 activity fee that goes to athletics.)
Florida does not charge students. “We have a pre-registration system,” spokesman Denver Parler said. “They can qualify for early registration by hitting certain attendance benchmarks, which helps them get into higher-demand games.”
Louisville, Kansas and UCLA offer students what amounts to a season-ticket package that includes football and men’s basketball. If a student went to every home football and basketball game last school year, the price would have been about $7.35 per ticket at UCLA, about $5.75 per ticket at Kansas or about $9 per game at Louisville.
If a Kansas student wants to pick and choose when to attend, he or she can buy individual game tickets for $10.
Guy Ramsey, director of strategic communication for UK athletics, suggested that $10 for a ticket to watch the perennially Final Four contending Wildcats play is a bargain.
“$10 for the product you’re getting is still a pretty incredible deal,” he said.
‘An important part’
UK’s rationale of increasing student attendance by raising ticket prices puzzled reader Roger Hickman, whose graduate degree in business from UK includes an emphasis on finance.
“Hmmm,” he wrote in an email. “I think that UK Athletics leadership never attended a basic economics course. If they had, they would understand the price elasticity of demand. Granted $10 is cheap for a basketball ticket at UK, but that price represents a 100 percent increase, and multiplied by 20 games, comes out to $100 more out of a student’s pocket.”
A cynic might think UK wanted fewer students to buy tickets, which could then be re-sold at non-student prices ($55 upper arena, $65 lower arena).
Guy Ramsey recoiled at this suggestion.
“No,” he said. “No. No. No. No. No. No.
“We know students are really an important part of our crowd, and we want as many of them as possible.”
UK allots 4,000 tickets for students.
Another idea for increasing student attendance is to give them better seats, say, moving student seating to the sideline opposite the benches a la Duke. Not feasible, Ramsey said.
“They invested in our program too much for too long for us to feel good about doing that …,” Ramsey said. “So that’s not a discussion at this point.”
Sports and politics
Former LSU coach Dale Brown regularly mixes politics with sports in his email messages. Last week he sent his take on efforts to repeal and replace (or just repeal with the promise of replacing in the future) the Affordable Care Act.
“The Republicans and Democrats seem to be having a hard time deciding on a Healthcare Plan,” Brown wrote. “I think I may be able to help them.
“Just give all of us the same plan that they currently have. The House and the Senate have already agreed that it is a good plan.
“Problem solved. No debates. No name calling. No broken promises. Just good healthcare for all of us.”
Regular reader and feedback provider Ernie Henninger saw the men’s singles finals at Wimbledon this year as an example for the sports world and other worlds to follow. Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic in straight sets.
“The Federer/Cilic Wimbledon match and post-match ceremonies should be a model for all sports (and politics!),” Henninger wrote in an email. “Excellence. Class. Mutual respect.”
To Jules Camara. He turned 38 on July 23. … To former Georgia coach Jim Harrick. He turned 79 on Tuesday. … To former SEC commissioner Mike Slive. He turned 77 on Wednesday. … To Steve Clevenger. He turned 71 on Saturday. … To Gene Stewart. He turns 72 on Monday. … To Mike Flynn. He turns 64 on Monday. … To Hamidou Diallo. He turns 19 on Monday. … To North Carolina Coach Roy Williams. He turns 67 on Tuesday.