Memo to John Calipari: your new adopted state of Kentucky might be as true blue as they come, but, when it comes to politics, it’s still a red state. About as red as they come in presidential politics, actually. John McCain won the state by 16.4% over Barack Obama last November, and there were only a handful of states in America with a larger such margin. Coach Cal, who has done everything but hang the moon during his first several months as the top don in the Commonwealth, stepped into a political landmine last week with his seemingly innocuous decision to market the Kentucky program by sending President Obama a UK jersey.
Considering the environment we now live in where some parents find it appropriate to protest a president’s speech to schoolchildren exhorting them to believe in themselves, set goals, work hard and take responsibility for their education, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that such a clear marketing ploy by Calipari (he also sent Obama his new book) would upset some of those same people. According to the editor of Calipari’s website, many fans were using foul and racially-charged language to criticize the coach’s decision to send the jersey to Obama, so he felt obligated to remove them from the site. This led to a Facebook update from Calipari soon thereafter where he described his original motive in sending the jersey to DC.
Calipari most certainly has learned his lesson here that politics (even the accidental kind) and sports don’t mix. Despite numerous UK fans who have come to his defense in the interim, he’ll undoubtedly be more careful in the future to consider who among his denizens may be offended when he makes another quasi-political gesture. Of course, if UK manages to win six games in a row next March/April and get invited as national champions to visit with the President at the White House, we’re not sure that even the most conservative members of Big Blue Nation will protest that.