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.”

Sarr added the team “don’t care about outside opinions of other people,” including those who had the opinion that Calipari should have nixed the idea.

“We’re all in this together as a team.,” he said. “We count on everybody else. We count on everybody in this program. Whoever has other opinions, that’s OK. We all have an opinion. I’m just proud Coach stood with us.”

The Wildcats take on Alabama Tuesday in a battle of two SEC unbeatens Tuesday night in Rupp Arena and Sarr said the decision to kneel won’t be a distraction.

“We’re just locked in on what we’ve got to do,” Sarr said. “People talk outside. We just focus on the court and focus on what we’ve got to do to get ready for that game. I think guys are more than locked in and more than ready to play that game.”

Jackson agreed.

“I just feel like we’re going to block out the noise,” he said. “We’ve been on a three-game winning streak and hopefully we can keep that going. We’ve been playing like perfect the last couple of games, I feel like. We’re just on a run right now, so we’re just going to try and keep that going.”

Neither Calipari or any of his staff was available for questions.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21