UK athletics director responds to controversial sign aimed at Florida football team

Controversial sign apparently made by UK fan targeting Florida football in the week leading up to the game between the two schools and after Hurricane Irma

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart took to Twitter to denounce a controversial sign, apparently made by a Wildcat fan, and to defend the UK football program and the school.

The banner drew immediate criticism and outrage after it was shared on an Instagram account this week targeting the Florida Gators, Kentucky’s opponent this Saturday night in Lexington.

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It read:  “If Hurricane Irma didn’t (expletive) you up, Cats will.”

Barnhart acknowledged the sign and asserted on Twitter that the university had nothing to do with it.  He said, “An insensitive and offensive sign has been making the rounds online this week.  I want to be clear:  That’s not us.  We will show the respect and care due our opponents and those affected by natural disasters.  As we’ve planned all week, we’ll accept donations at concession stands for UK’s Emergency Assistance & Relief Fund.  Please be generous.”

The fund was launched after Hurricane Harvey.  It’s designed to assist UK students who are from areas affected by recent natural disasters.

The Kentucky-Florida game at Kroger Field is sold out.  It’s the first home sellout for UK since 2015.  Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.  The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.



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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at You can also follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.