Cats say support, criticism from decision to kneel not distraction

Published 11:02 am Saturday, January 16, 2021

Olivier Sarr knew there would be opinions after the Kentucky Wildcats kneeled during the national anthem in Gainesville.

“We understood that our gesture would have consequences,” Sarr said Monday. “We just want people to understand. We knew that some people would be mad about what we did, but we just want people to understand that it’s a peaceful way to protest in the way that we can use our platform. We just want people to understand (it was done) to raise awareness and that’s it.”

Kentucky freshman Isaiah Jackson admitted he deleted his social media accounts and added the Wildcats were simply “trying to make a peaceful protest.” Like Sarr, Jackson said the Wildcats “already knew” to expect criticism.

“(We’re) trying to get through to everybody that we need equality just like everybody else,” he said. “This is a great country. I just feel like, and we feel like, everybody, like, minorities and stuff, don’t have equal rights as everybody else. That’s why we protested and that’s why we kneeled. That’s a peaceful protest.”

Sarr said the team’s action “speaks for itself” regarding the team’s decision to kneel, which Kentucky coach John Calipari said was made during the team’s bus ride to the game last Saturday. Jackson added the events at the U.S. Capitol last week were “just out of pocket” and “that’s something that people shouldn’t do.”

“What happened in the past few days, few weeks, and even during quarantine, we just want to show support for our community and raise awareness on the things that happened lately,” Sarr said. “It comes from a place of understanding peaceful conversations and being open-minded. That’s it.”

The senior forward added the Wildcats didn’t discuss the mixed reactions and negative backlash following the team’s decision to kneel during the anthem.

“Obviously we knew that people would react a certain way, but, as always, you do something, you always have some people that are pleased and some people that aren’t,” he said. “We just made our decision as a team, and most importantly, everyone was OK with it. That’s something we wanted to do. Unfortunately, some people are not happy with it but, like I said, we just want the best for everybody. We want peace and we want people to understand everybody.”