Kentucky football team walks out of practice in support of protests going on in sports

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - The University of Kentucky confirmed that the team met and decided to leave the practice field in support of protests going on across sports. From the university:

“I can confirm the Kentucky Football team decided to leave the practice field and are meeting right now to discuss more ways to promote their influence and be a part of effective change.”

Junior defensive end Josh Paschal and senior offensive guard Luke Fortner explained their decision to the participating media, saying the conversation got started entering the facilities with several voices sticking out, including Boogie Watson, Cedrick Dort, Landon Young and Max Duffy, among others.

“We met as a unity council, which is just a group of leaders throughout the team that players have anointed, and we really just talked about the issue,” Paschal said. “We had some players that felt like this was necessary to make this decision, spread awareness and make that awareness into action.”

Fortner says he fully expected to practice when he walked in the building, but seeing his teammates voice frustration, he knew it was the right decision. He went on to say that it’s more important now than ever for the white members of the team to stand with their black teammates.

“When Josh says that I need help to all of his white teammates, if his white teammates are there to back him up, we can automatically begin to make a change in our community and reach out to everyone in the community regardless of what color they are,” Fortner said. “And so I think it’s almost the most important part that we stand with Josh and the rest of our black teammates on this issue.”

The ultimate goal, both said, is to educate the youth in the community through reaching out to youth groups and police in Lexington.

Despite it being a players’ decision, head coach Mark Stoops knew about and supported the decision when he accidentally walked in on the players-only meeting. But Paschal says that Stoops supported the team in their decision.

“Coach Stoops, he’s always been for us,” Paschal said of the man who marched with his team in July as part of a George Floyd protest.

Paschal, Fortner and the rest of the Wildcats know they will hear from fans who believe they should shut up and play the game, but Paschal says he’s hurt by that sentiment and wants fans to see them as more than athletes.

“It hurts seeing fans who put us down, who see us as just athletes,” Paschal said. “When we leave this facility, we want our fans to know that we can have opinions that may not be the same as theirs, but we want them to see us as human. Because we are human, and we are all human. I respect their opinions and they should respect ours as well.”

The Wildcats will go back to practice on Friday, but Paschal and Fortner both said this movement won’t be a one-time thing and that they plan to make change within the community.

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