Last Saturday, former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight made his return to Assembly Hall for the first time in over 20 years. He was met with thunderous applause from thousands of fans as his rift with the university was supposedly ended.
For those few who aren’t aware, Knight was fired as basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers for abusing his players. The abuse famously included an instance where he was videoed choking former Hoosier Neil Reed.
I’ll be blunt about this: The praise that was given to Knight for “burying the hatchet” with the university last Saturday was terribly misguided.
My opinion has nothing to do with being “politically correct” or about “canceling” Bobby Knight.
Instead, I’m suggesting that the general public needs to take a much closer look at the damage that Knight has done to so many people throughout his life instead of cheering for what a great coach he was.
First, let’s talk about the famous choking incident. Not only did he openly deny that he choked Reed at first, but Knight did not even apologize initially for the incident. Instead, he only said he had temper issues which he later said had nothing to with the altercation in question.
Then a few days later, the University fired him as basketball coach. How did he respond? He criticized the administration for spreading “lies” about him, said Reed was “led astray” and “flustered” for coming out with the choking incident, and then he asked everyone to pray for himself and his own being.
He never asked for forgiveness. Instead he had only one person on his mind: himself. He could care less about the fact that he physically abused a student.
Reed would then receive real death threats for being honest about the abuse he suffered. While Knight isn’t responsible for those threats, he is responsible in my opinion for gas-lighting the abuse his victim suffered.
Reed would go on to experience nightmares of the incident throughout the rest of his life until he died due to heart complications in 2012. It’s a truly tragic story which deserves no applause from anyone.
Of course, I haven’t even gotten to how Knight racially abused members of the Brazilian national team and assaulted a Puerto Rican police officer at the Pan-American Games in 1979. A judge convicted him of assault and was sentenced to six months of jail time.
Knight refused to appear in court for the trail or sentencing as he said, “The only “expletive” thing they know how to do is grow bananas.”
Chances are you probably haven’t heard this story because it happened so long ago, and was buried underneath hundreds of wins by Knight and a national championship.
Why do I bring up these instances, and what’s the point of this column?
It’s because we need to be extremely careful of who he choose to praise and why he choose to do so.
Spoiler alert: we as human beings are incredibly flawed. We all have done things in our lives that we truly regret. We are far from perfect, myself included. Knight is one such human being.
But once you look at the full picture of his life and the harm he has brought people, I ask, is this really someone a stadium full of thousands of people should be applauding?
Sure, he won basketball games. That’s great. But at what cost did it come at? The fact is that he physically and mentally abused his own players and damaged some of them for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but he also racially abused others and had no remorse for doing so.
Just because he is finally deciding to bury the hatchet as an old man who is battling an illness does not mean I have to be obliged to forgive him for all of his wrongs. He sincerely hurt people and never apologized for it.
It was Knight who famously said in the year that Reed passed away, “When my time on Earth is gone, I want them to bury me upside down so my critics can kiss my a__!”
It’s a perfect quote which encapsulates Knight entirely, and it’s how he should be remembered.
He won’t be remembered as a good person. He won’t be remembered as someone who cared for the man next to him. He will be remembered as a basketball coach who wanted to lay waste to those who disagreed with him. He wanted to win more than he wanted to be a good person.
That’s the kind of person who I will personally never applaud.