UK faculty group asks university to rename Rupp Arena

The current look of Rupp Arena.
The current look of Rupp Arena.
Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 2:49 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WAVE) - A University of Kentucky faculty group wrote a letter to UK President Dr. Eli Capilouto asking him to consider its 10-point plan to make “an immediate impact on racial equality” at the university.

The faculty of the African American & Africana Studies program wrote the letter, dated July 23. Its 10th and final request was for the school to change the name of Rupp Arena, where UK basketball has dazzled fans since 1976. The arena is named after Adolph Rupp, who coached the UK men’s basketball team from 1930 to 1972, winning four national championships along the way.

Below is the excerpt of the letter that pertains to the request to rename the arena:

The University should rename Rupp Arena. The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees. The rebuilding of the arena and the convention center offer an opportunity to change the name to a far more inclusive one, such as Wildcat Arena. In addition, the University should survey all campus buildings and remove all names of enslavers, Confederate sympathizers (such as William C.P. Breckinridge), and other white supremacists.

Rupp’s recruiting history has long been a hot-button topic among college basketball fans, especially in Kentucky. Louisville high school star Tom Payne was Rupp’s first Black signee in 1969, Rupp’s 40th year at the helm at UK. At the time, Payne was billed as the next Lew Alcindor. He would be the only Black player to play for Rupp, who retired three years later.

Rupp’s all-White UK team lost in the 1966 national championship game to Texas Western’s all-Black starting five, inspiring a book and the critically-acclaimed 2006 movie “Glory Road,” not to mention a shift in the recruitment of Black athletes across all college sports and conferences.

Rupp’s supporters, however, note that the coach recruited other highly heralded Black high school stars prior to Payne; they just chose to play elsewhere in college.

The AAAS said it wrote the letter in honor of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement officers, including Louisville residents Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, shot dead this year by Louisville police and National Guard officers, respectively.

The faculty group made several other asks:

+ We ask that the University make every effort to ensure that UK and its contractors maintain the current percentages of Black staff at every level as we weather the current financial environment and commit to increasing diversity among the staff at all levels.

+ The entire University should require a course on race and inequality for all undergraduates.

+ The University must increase Black representation among faculty to 15%, which reflects the Black population of Lexington.

+ The University must appoint more Black faculty and staff to leadership positions.

+ The University must increase support for Black students.

+ The University must establish a system or systems of accountability for individuals who commit racist and other acts of discrimination on campus.

+ The University should fund the new Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies.

+ The University should join the Universities Studying Slavery collective and initiate a major study of the histories of slavery and racism within the institution.

+ The University should institute a policy that minimizes its cooperation with federal state and local law enforcement agencies including Immigration Customs and Enforcement (I.C.E) and the Lexington Police Department.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Rupp Arena is currently undergoing a nearly $300 million renovation project.

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