Kentucky HC John Calipari Says White Privilege Has Helped His Life, Career

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

Kentucky head coach John Calipari directs his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Kentucky won 65-59. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
James Crisp/Associated Press

Kentucky coach John Calipari acknowledged being white has helped him throughout his coaching career, despite not growing up with wealth.

"I'm white-privileged, even though I grew up the way I grew up," Calipari told reporters Wednesday. "I was still white, which means I had an advantage. ... I had one pair of tennis shoes. But that didn't matter."

Calipari was born and raised in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, a small city just outside of Pittsburgh, to a working-class family. He went on to play college basketball at UNC-Wilmington and Clarion University before beginning his coaching career in 1982.

Calipari said he's spoken to players about how to make a difference at Kentucky amid the racial unrest in the country. 

"I ended [a recent team meeting] with, 'I want to know—opinions, talks, speaking, showing—what action can you take as a group to make a difference in maybe one person's life,'" he said. "What can we do that you can do together, or individually, that we can make a difference with people?"

Nationwide protests against police violence and systemic racism have been ongoing for nearly three months since the killing of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day. Protests broke out this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week after a police offer shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back after he reportedly attempted to break up a domestic dispute.

The shooting of Blake, who may be paralyzed for the rest of his life, led players to refuse to play Wednesday's NBA playoff games in protest.