Student speaks in favor of Kernel in walk-on dispute

Be careful who you talk to or Big Blue Nation may revoke your citizenship. At least they’ll probably violate your First Amendment rights.

In an arguably illegal display of punishment, UK Athletics banned the Kentucky Kernel from participating in a set of men’s basketball team interviews after writer and editor Aaron Smith scooped the story of a pair of walk-ons making the team.

On Monday, the Kernel ran a front-page story detailing the punishment and still ran Smith’s 89-word story announcing the walk-ons. The reporting and gumption not to apologize for their actions should earn a tip-of-the-hat to Smith and the whole Kernel staff.

UK Athletics is a different story. Let’s start with the incident in an isolated sense. DeWayne Peevy’s quotes suggest that UK athletics has a gentleman’s agreement not to contact players directly, and according to Peevy’s tweets, that policy is written in “every media guide.” But does a policy constitute a rule that carries a punishment when broken? No, it’s not a contract. Was Smith aware of any retribution he may receive for contacting players away from the watchful eye of UK Athletics? Probably not.

But you don’t even have to get to that point to see the lunacy of the sanction. The players had not even been officially a­ part of the UK team, so do they truly fall under the protection of the UK media guide? How could Smith have been aware he was breaking a rule if he wasn’t aware the players were actually players?

Further, Peevy’s lack of clarity in his interview with the Kernel makes it hard to understand what line Smith actually crossed. Imagine this: A walk-on makes the team, tells his friends, assuming UK Athletics lets the players even have friends, and the friends tell the Kernel.Would the reporter be subject to sanctions? Or, better, what if the walk-on comes and tells the Kernel himself? I assume players are told not to volunteer information, but would the reporter be expected to plug his ears and sing? Would he or she be punished for asking questions in that situation? Who knows.

So, in response to good journalism, UK Athletics kicks the Kernel to the curb and locks them out of player interviews. UK Athletics is overacting like a child. Peevy would not even compromise the punishment even though he called it a “minor violation.” UK Athletics has crawled up into its tree-house and the Kernel can’t get in because the password is censorship.

In a broader sense, the policy breaks down even further. If a student sees Darius Miller on campus, talks to him, then writes about the conversation on a blog, could UK Athletics ban the student from seeing a game for violating the policy? Controlling the dissemination of information by punishing outside parties is ludicrous.

On top of that, UK Athletics is punishing an organization that speaks to the heart of UK fan base: UK students. The Kernel is consistently pro-Wildcats, consistently well-written, and, in the hundreds of interviews prior to this misunderstanding, consistently compliant. UK Athletics should be fostering this publication and giving its students access to exclusive information in an effort to repay the millions of hours spent cheering for UK teams.

While it is consistently downtrodden under the corrupt foot of the NCAA, in this instance UK Athletics is taking a page out of the NCAA’s handbook and enforcing a rule that doesn’t really exist. How ironic.

UK Athletics needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize that the solution is not to punish news outlets. Other schools dream of having this level of exposure for their athletics programs. But instead of relishing in the attention, controlling its players’ public statements (Really guys? You let them use Twitter?), and creatively satisfying the appetite for sports news in Kentucky, UK Athletics is on a diva-sized power binge and is using its desirability to control news organizations.

Ultimately, it sounds like UK Athletics is annoyed that another organization stole its limelight. In the Twitter generation, they need to learn that hoarding information is impossible and just frustrates fans and reporters.

Bravo to the Kernel for good reporting. Hopefully Kernel reporters keep pushing until the crotchety organization that is UK Athletics lightens up and starts having fun with UK sports.

Or until Peevy rewrites the Constitution.