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African-American and Africana Studies faculty at UK want Rupp Arena renamed

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:36 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Rupp Arena has been the home of UK basketball since Nov. 27, 1976, but the faculty of the African-American & Africana Studies at UK wants the name taken down. Their reasoning is simple: Adolph Rupp was racist with his language and did not do enough for African-Americans at UK.

“But I think that he also very clearly threw the N-word around, and did not use, if we are going to laud one of the greatest coaches of all time how come he did not use his position to integrate the University of Kentucky?” said Dr. Derrick White, professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at UK.

It’s a debate that has been waged for decades. Was Adolph Rupp racist? In 2005, former WKYT sports manager Dick Gabriel did a documentary looking for evidence to set the record straight.

“A lot of the thoughts and opinions they have, whether they are white or black, I had the same opinions when I was younger before I worked on this documentary,” Gabriel said. “Little by little, we kept on covering fact after fact that did not back to the notion that Rupp was a segregationist.”

Not one former player, assistant or opposing coach said Rupp was racist. Did Rupp recruit black players? Yes, the two most recognizable names being Wes Unseld and Butch Beard, who both later played at the University of Louisville.

“Is Coach Rupp less of a coach than Coach Bradshaw who led the football desegregation? There is something amiss,” Dr. White said. “Is he leaving from behind this issue? And that it is. That’s my opinion on this and that’s the way I think history will look at it.”

But Dr. White points to one specific instance to validate his claim.

“Coach Rupp, in 1974, used the N-word to describe the buildings that were knocked over, the homes that were knocked over, the black homes that were knocked over to build Memorial Coliseum,” Dr. White said. ”So even in 1974, he is willing to use the N-word. This is not a man in 1930 that may have been the phrase. But somehow he doesn’t evolve over the 44 years between the time he arrives at the University of Kentucky and by the time this interview was conducted in 1974.”

In a statement, UK thanked the group for their concerns and said they’d have discussions about them.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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