Rah Rah Ree, Kick 'Em in the Knee!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011
If you haven't heard, Knoxville has been the news maker in the arena of college sports this week. Long-time head basketball coach for the University of Tennessee, Bruce Pearl, was fired on Monday. The news slowly leaked out from anonymous sources and some of us were convinced by a (possibly fake) Pearl Facebook page that he was indeed finished at UT. Later that night, after the Lady Vols secured another amazing victory in the NCAA tournament, UT staff issued an official statement. Pearl is out as head coach.

Earlier in the evening, I was reporting live on the incident on the University of Tennessee campus near Neyland Stadium. I was struck by the organizational skills of a student, Kaci Wheeler. She put together a rally in the commons area by creating a Facebook page to advertise the gathering. Close to 75 students arrived to show their support for Coach Pearl. While interviewing Wheeler, she made it clear that she did this out of a passion for Vols basketball and was extremely well-spoken when it came to her mission to let Pearl know fans loved him. Another student, Robert Brace calmly and intelligently explained his stance that the athletic department had let him down by promising Pearl would be coach for a long time.

Covering the news yesterday made me proud of our right to freedom of speech. It sounds cliche but I was encouraged by the forward thinking students who unabashedly used this right to laugh, gather peacefully, make creative signs and shout chants. No one was violent, no one was wrong for having a certain opinion about the situation and students were polite with a mission. Police officers were not there to tell them what they could and could not say. University officials did not stand by to silence journalists covering the event. It was an honest display of the freedoms we have in the West.

Across campus, another group of students painted the "UT Rock" with a message to the athletic director, Mike Hamilton. They were not afraid to express themselves and had no fears of repercussion from authority figures. Even though the message was not kind, "We R Bruce, Fire Hamilton. Love, the Vols," it did not spew hate or violence.

We all notice countries such as Libya, Yemen and Egypt in the very baby steps toward democracy. Citizens are earning the right to protest actions or concepts they disagree with. It is obtainable but foreign and people may lose their lives in the fight. This week's news reminded me not to take for granted my liberty to share opinion and when necessary, celebrate those who stand up for what they believe.

1 comment

Chris F. said...

Threats to our liberties are always present and liberty itself dies when people trade it for empty promises of comfort and security. That being said, no doubt this week has been disappointing. I wish Pearl and his coaches the best in their future endeavors.

Mike Hamilton seems like a nice man. He does a fine job in capital improvement projects and fundraising. But he seems to have trouble relating to the dynamics of college athletics, the nuances of dealing with coaches, players, staff, etc...