Jen Smith on Basketball

Radio host apologizes for ‘poor choice of words’ when discussing Kentucky’s Epps

Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) celebrates scoring and drawing a foul against Auburn during the second half in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.
Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) celebrates scoring and drawing a foul against Auburn during the second half in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

A Knoxville sports radio personality apologized on Wednesday for disparaging remarks he made about Kentucky star Makayla Epps earlier this week on his show.

The morning after the Cats’ 64-63 comeback victory over Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum, WNML “Sports Animal” host Jeff Jacoby went off on a rant about Epps, who scored 14 points in the third quarter to help UK get back in the game.

Within the rant, Jacoby said to his co-hosts that Epps is “one of those players that if she plays for you, you love her, and if she plays for the other team, you just want to put your fist through her face.”

The self-proclaimed “Tennessee homer” on the four-hour sports talk show told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday that he made a mistake.

“It was a very poor choice of words to get the point across,” Jacoby said in a phone interview, noting that this was the first major controversy he’d had in nearly 40 years in the business.

“She’s a very self assured player and she’s very good at what she does and I used a very poor choice of words to say what I was trying to get across.”

When Jacoby saw a series of tweets from Epps’ father, Anthony, about not taking kindly to comments about Makayla, Jacoby said he reached out to the former men’s basketball star at Kentucky to apologize.

“I don’t blame her father for being upset,” Jacoby said. “I probably would’ve reacted the same way it if it was my daughter. I just wanted to make sure I very quickly put that out there to him and to her.”

Jacoby said that earlier in the show he compared Epps to a Pete Rose-type player.

“She’s a very confident player and when she’s putting it to you, it gets under your skin,” he said. “That’s part of it. She’s the kind of player you love to have when she’s playing for you.

“She is a fantastic player,” he continued of the Cats’ leading scorer both in that game and this season. “I wish her nothing but the best. I really do.”

In his news conference to preview No. 12 Kentucky’s game against Vanderbilt on Thursday night, Coach Matthew Mitchell said UK and Epps accept Jacoby’s apology.

“It was a poor choice of words, and I think all of us need to be aware of what we are saying, certainly if we are in the media and in the public and talking about kids and young people,” Mitchell said on Wednesday afternoon.

“There are so many issues in sports right now with violence in particular, so with all of that, you have to be really aware of what you’re saying. And we are appreciative of the apology and we are moving forward.”

Mitchell said he doesn’t believe that Jacoby meant to threaten Epps in any way.

“It was a radio show that just got a little fired up about a game,” the UK coach said. “It’s a real intense rivalry, and it was a poor choice of words.”