The following From the Sidelines column appeared in the January 24, 2018 edition of the News Journal:
It brings me absolutely no pleasure to write this column. It brings me no pleasure at all, because in this entire situation there are no winners. There are only losers, and so far the biggest loser of all has been Corbin Redhound Andrew Taylor.
Just in case you’ve been under a rock for the past several days, allow me to explain the aforementioned “situation.”
Corbin hosted Knox Central in a boys-girls basketball double header last Friday evening. The boys’ game was a highly anticipated rematch after the Panthers defeated the Redhounds in the finals of the 2017 Cumberland Falls Invitational Tournament last month.
Corbin won this rematch by a large margin, but the story unfortunately only begins there. Later that same evening a short video clip began to make the rounds on social media that showed Corbin’s star player, Taylor, saying something like “sometimes you have to put the monkey back in the cage.”
People immediately began condemning Taylor’s comment, saying it was obviously racially charged and directed at a black member, or members, of the Knox Central boys basketball team. Since that time this “story” has been picked up by several print and television media outlets from as far away as South Carolina.
Now, before I go any further let me just say that I was not in town when all of this drama got started last Friday. I was in Sevierville, TN for the 2018 Border Bowl, so it’s not like I can give a firsthand account of what went down. I did have a computer with me, though, and I can tell you that I saw many people making many different accusations.
In addition to the “monkey in the cage” comment, I also heard that Taylor was using the “N” word throughout the Redhounds’ game against the Panthers earlier that evening. I heard that the officials calling the game were well aware of such name calling, and chose not to do anything about it.
Let me give my personal opinion about these accusations. First of all, I have spoken to several people who attended the Corbin-Knox Central game, and they have told me that there was no obvious evidence of Taylor displaying such behavior. So, until someone can come up with an actual audio or video clip of him using these nasty words that has to be considered simply rumor, right?
And as for the officials hearing such language and choosing to ignore it? I call BS on that. I have been to hundreds of ball games, and I know that KHSAA officials are trained to not let things like that go on in athletic competitions. I can’t speak so much for officials in other regions, but I have confidence that the ones around here simply would not put up with stuff like that. I don’t believe they heard anything of the sort and made a conscious decision to keep quiet. I just don’t.
With all of that being said, do I think it’s possible that Taylor made some inappropriate remarks while on the court that went unnoticed by anyone else except some of the other players? Sure, it’s possible. But do I think he’s guilty of all the terrible things he’s being accused of? No, I do not.
I have been around this kid since he was in middle school. I’ve interviewed him on numerous occasions. I know several members of his family. I feel like I can pretty well gauge what type of a person he is, and I’ve never personally seen anything out of him that would make me think he is racist in any way.
Does that mean his “monkey” comment didn’t include racial undertones? No. It could have, but it also could have meant something totally different. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a racist, and I don’t immediately associate the word “monkey” with African-Americans, but when I heard the comment I thought maybe he’s talking about getting the monkey off his back after having lost to Knox Central last month in the championship game of the Cumberland Falls Invitational Tournament. Is that possible, or am I just totally stupid and naïve?
Upon further reflection I can certainly see why some people might have gotten upset about what Taylor said, but is it really so bad that he should be kicked off the team, kicked out of school or lose his college scholarship? All of those are suggestions that I have seen made BY ADULTS on Facebook and Twitter recently. Come on, people. Really?
How can so many grown-up individuals think it’s a good idea to attack a KID as viciously as they have in recent days? He made a mistake, absolutely, but he has publicly apologized, and he has been suspended for several games for what head coach Tony Pietrowski called a “violation of team rules.”
My hope is that we can all get past this now and get back to focusing on basketball very soon. If Taylor had done something that was obviously wrong I would not be defending him in any way, but so far I have yet to see or hear anything obvious, definite or concrete. The vast majority of talk has just been people spewing their opinions all over social media, which is a HUGE problem in today’s society as far as I’m concerned.
In closing, let me just make the following clear-cut statements: 1) Until we know FOR SURE that Taylor made racist comments he does not deserve to be vilified like he has been, 2) If an anyone ever does make disparaging remarks about another person based solely on their ethnicity, then that person absolutely deserves to be punished accordingly and 3) Always choose your words wisely, especially while in public, and keep company that is trustworthy.