LEXINGTON, Ky. – Normally a University of Kentucky basketball fan, Faye Mulligan found herself rooting for the opposing team Saturday night.
“Even though I would have loved to see Kentucky win, I had to cheer for the other side,” said Mulligan, a Lexington resident.
Mulligan wasn’t rooting against Tubby Smith’s Wildcats. She was one of dozens of people around Lexington who viewed a sneak preview of the new Disney film “Glory Road.”
The movie portrays Texas Western’s historic 72-65 win over Kentucky in the 1966 national championship game.
Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp and ranked No. 1 in the country headed into the contest, fielded an all-white team.
The game marked the first time in NCAA basketball history that a team fielded an all-black starting lineup in the title game, breaking a long-standing a racial barrier.
At the time, Kentucky had never signed a black player. But many who saw the sneak preview felt like the movie portrayed Kentucky as the villain. In the movie, Kentuckians are pictures jeering at the black players from Texas Western and waving Rebel flags in the stands.
Drexel Neal, a Georgetown resident, said the movie could be educational.
“Hopefully, this movie will make others realize how far we as a country have come from the ’60s and how much progress we’ve made,” Neal said. “Color really isn’t as big as an issue as it was back in the ’60s.”
Sarah Owen was one of several movie goers who said they didn’t know much about coach Don Haskins’ team and its struggles.
“It was good to see how far basketball has come with segregation. We don’t think of it now,” said Sarah Owen.
The game has also become integral to the debate about Rupp’s legacy, including whether he resisted integration.
“At first it portrayed him to be kind of racist, but at the end it showed him recruiting the first black player in Kentucky’s history,” said Ronnie Letcher, 17, of Richmond. “It’s really not him being racist, it’s about him not knowing about black athletes.”
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com