Kentucky Kernel photographer says member of Arkansas coaching staff grabbed his phone in viral video


A video posted by Kentucky Kernel Photo Editor Jack Weaver appears to show Weaver’s phone being grabbed by a member of the Arkansas mens basketball coaching staff.

Gray Greenwell, Features Editor

A video from a Kentucky Kernel photographer has gone viral after a member of the University of Arkansas mens basketball coaching staff appeared to grab his phone to stop the photographer from recording the team’s head coach as he left the court.

In a tweet posted following Arkansas’s loss to Texas A&M at the 2023 SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, Kernel Photo Editor Jack Weaver said Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman “left the court in a rage of f-bombs.”

The tweet’s accompanying video capturing Musselman’s court exit — which does not depict Musselman’s use of language — appears to be interrupted by University of Arkansas mens basketball Director of Internal Operations Riley Hall, at which point the footage went blurry when Hall grabbed the phone and, according to Weaver, threw it to the ground.

Weaver, a credentialed journalist covering the entire tournament on behalf of the Kernel, was photographing the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas A&M Aggies in an approved media area prior to the interaction.

The Kernel photo editor said he was wrapping up his photography postgame when he noticed Musselman shouting obscenities toward the other side of the court. He then pivoted to video coverage to document the Arkansas head coach’s walk to the tunnel, which is when the incident with Hall occurred.

“I didn’t start the video until (Musselman was) getting close to me,” Weaver said. “I was filming normal and I never realized that the man (Hall) behind Musselman started yelling ‘Get that s—t out of his face,’ and you can start to hear that in the video, but you don’t hear the end of it, I don’t believe, because he had already grabbed my phone.”

Hall grabbed Weaver’s phone, Weaver said, and tossed it behind him, which is when the recording stopped. Weaver said he initially thought the video did not save, but was able to tweet what did save.

The three-second video accumulated over 2 million views on Twitter within 24 hours of its posting, and Weaver’s tweet itself has been viewed over 7 million times.

In a letter addressed to the University of Arkansas’s Hunter Yurachek, Charles Robinson and Terry Martin, Kernel Editor-in-Chief Rayleigh Deaton and Kernel Student Media Adviser Ryan Craig reprimanded Hall’s treatment of Weaver and called on Hall and the University of Arkansas athletics department to apologize.

“No journalist, student or otherwise, deserves to be treated in this way, and the fact that Mr. Hall would do so to a credentialed journalist is appalling,” Deaton and Craig wrote.

Yurachek, University of Arkansas vice chancellor and director of athletics, issued a statement Saturday regarding the interaction.

“Mr. Hall expressed his regret that while leaving the floor his engagement inadvertently resulted in knocking the reporter’s cell phone from his hand,” Yurachek said in the statement. “While, based on our discussion, I do not believe there was malicious intent, I have addressed the issue with Mr. Hall and he agrees his actions were not appropriate or reflective of our program.”

Yurachek concluded his statement with an apology to Weaver.

“On behalf of Mr. Hall and our program, I want to offer an apology to the reporter impacted by these actions,” he said. 

Weaver called Yurachek’s use of the word “inadvertently” to refer to Hall’s actions “blatantly incorrect.”

“He didn’t accidentally knock the phone out of my hand,” Weaver said. “He grabbed the phone out of my hand and threw it right behind him.”

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton addressed the interaction between Hall and Weaver in a tweet posted Saturday.

“We are sorry for what happened to @jack_weaver_ last night. He was simply doing his job as a student journalist,” Blanton tweeted. “Our focus is on his well-being as a community member. A number of people have reached out to Jack. We support him as a @universityofkentucky student — now and always.”

UK’s School of Journalism and Media in the College of Communication and Information has also issued a statement following Friday’s events.

“The School of Journalism and Media considers the harassment of any type against journalists reporting the news to be inexcusable and stands with The Kentucky Kernel in its response,” the school said.

Robinson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, provided his own response to Deaton and Craig’s letter Sunday. The chancellor reiterated that Hall’s actions were unintended and said that Hall plans to reach out to Weaver to apologize.

“The employee (Hall) explained that this was an accidental brushing of the phone and not an intentional act to interfere with the journalist’s work,” Robinson said. “The staff member has also indicated that he will reach out to the student to offer a personal apology.”