John Calipari learned a valuable lesson on Wednesday: Kentucky basketball and politics don't mix.
Mere hours after the Lexington Herald-Leader revealed that Calipari planned to host a $1,000-a-person fundraiser at his home for Gov. Steve Beshear, the Kentucky coach cancelled the event.
The official reason: "the full plate of both professional and pressing, personal matters" Calipari said he had to tend to in the coming months. The real reason: the widespread outrage from Kentucky fans upset that their coach would take a poltical stance.
"I hope by now you all realize that I don't take my position as your basketball coach lightly," Calipari said Wednesday night on his Facebook page. "I know how politically charged this state is and I recognize that the Big Blue Nation comes from both sides of the aisle. I appreciate every elected official who supports the University of Kentucky, regardless of party."
It's perfectly fine that some Kentucky fans apparently disagree with Calipari's political leanings, but it's more difficult to understand why they don't think he has a right to voice them. A political journalist or a judge has an obligation to remain neutral. A basketball coach, no matter how influential, does not.
Calipari isn't even the first Kentucky basketball coach to incur the wrath of his fan base as a result of his politics. Rick Pitino received criticism from some fans when he appeared onstage with President Clinton during his re-election campaign in 1996.
Although Calipari probably turned off a few Kentucky fans on Wednesday, the mishap probably did little to erode his popularity in the long run. After all, the most vocal contingent in Kentucky is the Big Blue Nation, and as long as Calipari's teams keep winning, his constituents will support him.