UK, Kernel agree on distribution at Commonwealth

UK officials and the Kentucky Kernel have reached a tentative agreement to distribute the student newspaper outside Commonwealth Stadium before home football games.

UK agreed to allow the Kernel to put racks and vendors in three spots on stadium property if the vendors don’t walk around the parking lot to distribute the newspaper, UK Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing Jay Blanton said.

Vendors can distribute the newspaper until two hours before games begin, Blanton said.

“The university gets to maintain its distribution policy but has created a balance with the Kernel,” Blanton said. “The Kernel is in buildings on campus already, and now we’re working with Athletics to have it at Commonwealth.”

Last week, UK said distributing the newspaper in the stadium’s parking lot violates an $80 million contract the university has with IMG College, a sports marketing firm that holds exclusive advertising and media rights to all UK sports.

Blanton said UK is happy with the resolution, as it honors the rights granted in the First Amendment and ensures that parking lot patrons aren’t bothered by solicitation.

“We’re making sure the paper doesn’t disrupt fans,” he said. “We’ve achieved a balance where the Kernel gets its right to expression without interrupting.”

Other newspapers at schools with IMG contracts have not had trouble having a presence at games but do not actively hand out papers like the Kernel does.

Rather than having representatives distribute newspapers at home games, the University of Tennessee, the University of Michigan, the University of Florida and the  Ohio State University all have newspaper boxes located near their venues.

Kernel Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray said the publication will abide by the compromise for now, but said the First Amendment grants the right to distribute material on public property to everyone, not just the Kernel.

“I’m happy we’re able to distribute, but this isn’t just about us,” Murray said. “The First Amendment is for everyone.”

Media attorney Jon Fleischaker called the compromise a win for the Kernel.

Previous Coverage: UK stops Kernel distribution at stadium

“The world is full of compromises,” he said. “It’s a pretty good deal for the Kernel. They should be pleased that they stood up for their rights.”

Blanton said the compromise is also a win for UK.

“The institution is happy with the successful resolution,” he said. “Our distribution policy is important, but so is the Kernel.”

Fleischaker said through his experience in media law, which includes representing the Chicago Tribune, the Kentucky Press Association and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, he knows no one ever wins or loses when it comes to free speech rights.

“When you do First Amendment cases, you find that there is no total victory or defeat,” Fleischaker said. “There will always be a First Amendment battle to fight tomorrow, next week, next year.”