Within hours after the media began reporting Wednesday that University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari would host a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser at his Lexington home for Gov. Steve Beshear, Calipari changed his mind.
"I hope by now you all realize that I don't take my position as your basketball coach lightly," Calipari said on his Facebook page about 9:40 p.m. "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.
"That said, the governor's event planned for August 11 — along with other charitable functions scheduled for our home — have been canceled after realizing the full plate of both professional and pressing, personal matters I will be tending to in the next couple of months. Ellen and I do hope this discussion will lead you to exercise your right to vote in the upcoming elections."[...]
Calipari isn't the only Kentucky coach to have been stung by brushes with politics. In 1996, then-UK coach Rick Pitino irritated some fans by appearing onstage with President Bill Clinton during his re-election campaign.
Pitino later said U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, wrote in a letter to him that he was no longer a UK basketball fan because Pitino introduced Clinton, a Democrat, at an election eve campaign rally at UK.
Pitino said his distaste for politics was intensified by Bunning's letter.
In the invitation letter to the Beshear fund-raiser, Calipari said Beshear and his wife, Jane, "have welcomed our family to the commonwealth with open arms and this opportunity will be one for Ellen and me to both thank Governor Beshear and the first lady and also to continue the robust discussion he has led on economic development — despite these difficult times."
The Democratic governor held a reception for Calipari at the Governor's Mansion in May 2009.