UT clears Renaldo Woolridge, although witnesses confirm video took place in private setting

Bruce Pearl comments on allegations surrounding Renaldo "Swiperboy" Woolridge

The New Amsterdam Bar and Grill is located at 1836 Cumberland Ave.

Photo by Saul Young

The New Amsterdam Bar and Grill is located at 1836 Cumberland Ave.

New Amsterdam Bar and Grill

1836 Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN
Phone: 865-544-7080

Housing one of the largest dance floors in Knoxville, New Amsterdam is a two-story club featuring 3 bars, one central 360-degree bar upstairs, and a full-service drink and dining menu. DJ dance parties and live music shows every weekend. Located ...

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Inside the beats of Swiperboy Entertainment

Tennessee men's basketball player Renaldo Woolridge and two of his friends were granted exclusive and free access to a portion of a Cumberland Avenue bar early Sunday morning to shoot a music video, an arrangement that could constitute an NCAA violation.

Eight hours after the Vols' 72-61 loss at No. 8 Connecticut on Saturday, Woolridge and his friends occupied an upstairs portion of New Amsterdam Bar and Grill, 1836 Cumberland Ave., to shoot a music video, multiple people confirmed to the News Sentinel.

The Tennessee athletic department, citing information obtained during an afternoon investigation Monday that involved interviews with the bar's owner and general manager, along with Woolridge and two other students, concluded that no NCAA violation occurred, UT associate athletic director for communications Jimmy Stanton said.

According to NCAA bylaw 12.1.2.1.6, student-athletes are not permitted to receive preferential treatment, benefits or services "because of the individual's athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation."

Multiple eyewitnesses, including Raed “Ryan” Zekry, who identified himself to a News Sentinel representative as an owner of the bar, said Woolridge spent an hour shooting a music video in a reserved portion of the two-story bar.

Zekry, who originally asked not to be identified because the publicity may hurt the bar, told the News Sentinel on Sunday that Woolridge "shot the video to support UT."

"It was given to him by the New Amsterdam for free because we do support him and UT sports in general," Zekry said.

Stanton said UT's investigation concluded that Woolridge and his friends were only there to snap photographs, and that no portion of the bar was closed off to the public.

They were given the same access that other student groups have received in the past, which would not constitute an NCAA violation for improper benefits, Stanton said.

"There wasn't a sign or any security saying it was for private use," Stanton told the Associated Press in a separate interview.

Grant Ramey, a freelance reporter for the News Sentinel who was at the bar to cover the event, said the upstairs area where Woolridge and his friends were located was blocked off by two chairs and a man serving as a bouncer.

Katie Leone, a bartender who has worked at New Amsterdam for six years, also confirmed that the area was blocked off. Leone also is employed as a part-time copy editor at the News Sentinel.

Woolridge, 20, declined to comment when approached by Ramey, who gained access to the area after he asked Zekry to arrange an interview.

Zekry asked Woolridge and his friends if Ramey was "with them" before escorting him out of the area, Ramey said.

Ramey said Woolridge, two friends and three women were "definitely" shooting a video and the area only opened an hour later when the group was finishing. Leone also confirmed this account.

A second New Amsterdam employee, who requested anonymity because the person was fearful of losing employment, confirmed all the details of Leone's and Ramey's accounts.

The cost of the room Woolridge occupied for an hour before it opened to the general public can range anywhere from free to as much as $2,000 for an evening, Leone said. The space has also been made available for free to campus groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Volunteers for Ethiopian Orphans, Leone said.

Leone, who was working the area reserved for Woolridge on Saturday night, said the bar promoted Woolridge's video shoot throughout its busiest hours Friday night and into Saturday morning.

The UT men's basketball team is one of three programs at the university - along with football and baseball - that is currently under investigation by the NCAA. The UT athletic department announced that it received a Letter of Inquiry from the NCAA in October and is expected to receive the findings as early as the end of January or February.

A number of UT men's basketball players violated the NCAA's improper benefits rule when they received free admission on Thursday nights to Bar Knoxville, 1820 Cumberland Ave., between May and July 9, 2010. Because none of the student-athletes received more than $100 in benefits, they were briefly declared ineligible until they paid back their share to a charity.

Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl and football coach Derek Dooley have since banned their players from attending Bar Knoxville, which also was the site of a well-documented brawl involving football players and an undercover police officer last July. The bar recently changed its name to Rumorz.

Recent cases of improper benefits in college basketball that went above $100 have resulted in suspensions. Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly were suspended in December for three and six games, respectively, for receiving improper discounts from a local clothing store.

Jacques Smith, a freshman defensive end on the football team, was arrested Oct. 31 at New Amsterdam after a fight with a patron. Smith pleaded guilty on a simple assault charge, but he will have the transgression dropped from his record in a year if he adheres to his judicial diversion.

Woolridge has averaged nine minutes per game in eight games this season. He did not dress in UT's loss to Connecticut on Saturday because of an ankle injury and was not made available to the media after Monday's practice.

On his official website, Woolridge, in a video blog shot during the team's flight Thursday night to Connecticut, promoted the impending production of a video for his latest single, "Snap Back." Woolridge has filmed a number of rap videos since arriving at UT in 2008, including a university-sponsored promotion during former football player Eric Berry's Heisman trophy campaign in 2009.

"I'm very supportive of Renaldo as a student and very supportive of him in his major in film and communications, and he particularly has a very unique talent," Pearl said at his weekly media luncheon Monday. "When I say that, we're encouraging him to be the best he can be in both pursuits, academically as well as basketball.

"There are certain times of the year where it's more appropriate to focus the vast majority of his energy to that in the season and probably we'll visit with him a little bit on that. There's a balance; there's got to be a balance there."

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 82

MothershipChip writes:

If other student groups have been accorded the same access then this is a complete non-issue. As they say, "Nothing to see here, move along."

MrBamSeydu writes:

"The cost of the room Woolridge occupied for an hour before it opened to the general public can range anywhere from free to as much as $2,000 for an evening, Leone said."

Okay? End of story. free.

tennessee47 writes:

If this did happen. First all player that took part in video be banned from playing for tennessee. Second The team should be held to ncaa law. If that mean they get banned for year than they get banned for year.
Some thing is up about this. The owner say there was not filming a video. But employees say they was.
Now this is going to make ncaa very upset. So they will be ready to throw the book at them.

BillsBrother writes:

I remember when newspapers reported facts.

I have no idea if this is legitmate journalism or a sports version of National Enquirer.

mlbrown5454 writes:

why this gribble guy is intent on pushing a story on nothing beyond me.

no wonder you will continue to lose readership to the other online sites.

knightsaynih writes:

Outrage!

Is that what you are hoping for Mr. Gribble?

The KNS is quickly becoming a joke.

TommyJack writes:

Sounds like KNS will be pizzed if no violation took place.

orangeblood8456 writes:

the ncaa has handed down the self imposed penalty. the university of tennessee and fans who support ut must read the kns every day!

TheREALFightSong writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Sounds like KNS will be pizzed if no violation took place.

That's the vibe I'm getting from this article too. I understand being unbiased and reporting facts, but the reporting in this article makes it seem like the KNS is pressing the issue. Is it so hard to just report facts that you can support with concrete evidence?

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to tennessee47:

If this did happen. First all player that took part in video be banned from playing for tennessee. Second The team should be held to ncaa law. If that mean they get banned for year than they get banned for year.
Some thing is up about this. The owner say there was not filming a video. But employees say they was.
Now this is going to make ncaa very upset. So they will be ready to throw the book at them.

Horse hockey.

The very first poster got it right, this is a non-issue. The man is a film major. Film majors shoot videos. It's what they DO.

In the music industry, and also in its entertainment-based sister-industry of club operations...shooting a video at ANY given location is considered an honor. Plus, it ain't bad publicity, either. Such arrangements are COMMONPLACE in the industry.

The club obviously has a history of supporting other student-related functions.

I see no violation.

tovolny writes:

KNS wouldn't report a RUMOR before getting some facts together, would they? Would they? Appears to me that Swiperboy, along with his outfit, were just cultivating their talents. The talents that he will probably be using to make a living after graduation. I just don't see anything wrong with the situation as far as I can tell.

Look...how many people out there wish that KNS, or whoever, would have waited until a violation had been revealed before reporting it. Reporting about something that MIGHT have happened...uh...?uh..?...? Does this make sense? OR, does this make CENTS...you choose.

tennessee47 writes:

But they club said it was not close off. second it was. Which one is true. Differences worker said they do charge people to use the up stairs and not open to general pubic when they are using it.
I love for the NCAA find that player did break the rule and the team is banned for 3yr from playing any games. even if they do. they can not have any game on tv
also not be allowed to play in the play off. also the school is fine 50,000.00 dollar
be best thing for the school. I get so tired of the football and basketball program being treated like school would not run with out the sport program.
UT is there to learning, not to train player for the pros football or basketball.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Sounds like KNS will be pizzed if no violation took place.

Probably so,but they will be thrilled when they win this years Creative News Creation Award.

VOLinAthensGA writes:

Gee, and the Knox Vegas media wonders why Coach Derek Dooley was warry of you guys when he got there.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

More like "KNS Trying to Matter, more at GVX24/7"

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to tennessee47:

But they club said it was not close off. second it was. Which one is true. Differences worker said they do charge people to use the up stairs and not open to general pubic when they are using it.
I love for the NCAA find that player did break the rule and the team is banned for 3yr from playing any games. even if they do. they can not have any game on tv
also not be allowed to play in the play off. also the school is fine 50,000.00 dollar
be best thing for the school. I get so tired of the football and basketball program being treated like school would not run with out the sport program.
UT is there to learning, not to train player for the pros football or basketball.

It doesn't matter if the club closed off the space or not.

I say again so you'll hopefully understand...there's no violation.

This horse is dead...get off.

tennessee47 writes:

It so funny how UT clear him, Now it up to SEC and NCAA to clear him. I hope the school is cleared. It about time that all the player learn they are not above the rules. He did not think he get caught. This was not good time to get caught/ Since the NCAA is not cleared the school from the last time. If the player keep this up . The school will get black listed. And be banned from playing tv games and play off. If this happen you see the coach get the door and then has pay him since they fired him.
I hope this will wake up the players.
I all for the basketball and football program get in deep trouble. It about time the program is brought back down to earth

HallowedHill writes:

The NCAA needs to get a clue. Instead of praising a young man that has it together and is already working on his career path, they want to take him down.
I've been to the bars on Cumberland and there isn't anything "exclusive" about any of them. You or I could easily and freely film our own rap video at one of these clubs, ... if we could rap.
If Mark Twain thought school got in the way of our education, what would he say about the NCAA?!

GO VOLS!

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to Fall_Creek_Vols:

Horse hockey.

The very first poster got it right, this is a non-issue. The man is a film major. Film majors shoot videos. It's what they DO.

In the music industry, and also in its entertainment-based sister-industry of club operations...shooting a video at ANY given location is considered an honor. Plus, it ain't bad publicity, either. Such arrangements are COMMONPLACE in the industry.

The club obviously has a history of supporting other student-related functions.

I see no violation.

Really doesn't matter if you see a violation or not. It is whether the NCAA can see one. Obviously they have it in for Bruce, so do not be surprised at what happens

iowavol writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's a simple answer - JA. No it doesn't stand for Jack a$z even thought that is what he is. His goal is simple, smear the Tennessee Volunteer name any and every chance you can.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Sounds like KNS will be pizzed if no violation took place.

Witch Doctor believe KNS should hire an Editor...seems like none of these Gribble stories are filtered....looks like these Jr reporter stories should be screened for content before publishing...KNS likes eggy faces I guess.
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

..anyone else notice all these "scenario" stories that turn out to be someone crying "Wolf" come from the same jr reporter? just saying....
Bones never lie.

Madkels writes:

The world has gone insane. A business owner can't give free use of a room without being accused of breaking NCAA rules, a coach can't give a kid and his parents a hamburger and coke without getting strung up, and as I watch the news this a.m., some states are concidering a law against talking on a cell phone while walking! Dear God, please return common sense and sanity back to our world.

Madkels writes:

I remember a time when reporters reported REAL news and sensationalism was left for the "National Enquirer".

crimsonviper writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

..anyone else notice all these "scenario" stories that turn out to be someone crying "Wolf" come from the same jr reporter? just saying....
Bones never lie.

Aye,Doc...I wonder if Gribble's middle name is ZZ.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fo' shiZZle.
Don't give ZZ any ideas for new usernames...He can't keep up with the dozen he already has.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say it funny when the "paperboy" comes out to defend KNS...classic!
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say it funny when the "paperboy" comes out to defend KNS...classic!
Bones never lie.

*"thin-skinned" paperboy....lets be accurate.
Bones never lie.

colt45 writes:

sounds like to me that Grant Ramey and Katie Leone are upset that they were not allowed to be apart of the "party". But on a seriious note should a division 1 player be taking pictures for his new rap video 8 hours after losing on national tv. How about studying subjects or game film. Shooting free throws, and boxing out. "just saying"

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say heres a thought....Since Gribble ALWAYS has a "source"(W_D call BS, these pieces are slanted..duh) why isnt someone at KNS checking this out? Seems after 8-9 of these wild goose chases.(?) Pay-site? TMZ is free.
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hes putting away his 10 speed after finishing his paper route.
Bones never lie.

finn writes:

in response to colt45:

sounds like to me that Grant Ramey and Katie Leone are upset that they were not allowed to be apart of the "party". But on a seriious note should a division 1 player be taking pictures for his new rap video 8 hours after losing on national tv. How about studying subjects or game film. Shooting free throws, and boxing out. "just saying"

Hey Colt, I think old Katie Leone was hoping this would be her big investigative reporting break. You've got to wonder if she wasn't the source of this whole fiasco. Reporters can and should follow-up on any viable leads, even if they do reflect poorly on UT, but they should also take a few minutes to research issue. When the owner says he's already let other groups use it for free, you should recognize it's a non-starter and not drag UT through the mud for no reason. Nice work, KNS.

huntined#565710 writes:

Why worry about this.

1- He is not that good of a player
2- Cares more about RAP then Basketball
3- NCAA not after him as they have bigger fish on the line.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Hes putting away his 10 speed after finishing his paper route.
Bones never lie.

Riding a 10 speed wearing jorts...I'll bet that is rough.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to huntined#565710:

Why worry about this.

1- He is not that good of a player
2- Cares more about RAP then Basketball
3- NCAA not after him as they have bigger fish on the line.

Witch Doctor say its not about the kid..(Renaldo) its about the Jr. reporter Gribbles exaggerations
two words come to mind
Tony Basillo
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to crimsonviper:

Riding a 10 speed wearing jorts...I'll bet that is rough.

Haha. Witch Doctor say he keeps paperboy hours. Witch Doctor bet his mommy has a warm bowl of oatmeal waiting on him...ahhhhh hes so pathetic.
lol.
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to myfuzzyvolz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say then you become a target of 18 year old "acting" reporters in Knoxville. Witch Doctor say KNS can dish it out but expect they cant take it so this article will disappear quickly today.
Bones never lie.

jsmithnga#207674 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say heres a thought....Since Gribble ALWAYS has a "source"(W_D call BS, these pieces are slanted..duh) why isnt someone at KNS checking this out? Seems after 8-9 of these wild goose chases.(?) Pay-site? TMZ is free.
Bones never lie.

Do you remember ooh e ooh aah aah ting tang walla walla bing bang? Been missing you glad to see your comments.

tmartin writes:

in response to tennessee47:

But they club said it was not close off. second it was. Which one is true. Differences worker said they do charge people to use the up stairs and not open to general pubic when they are using it.
I love for the NCAA find that player did break the rule and the team is banned for 3yr from playing any games. even if they do. they can not have any game on tv
also not be allowed to play in the play off. also the school is fine 50,000.00 dollar
be best thing for the school. I get so tired of the football and basketball program being treated like school would not run with out the sport program.
UT is there to learning, not to train player for the pros football or basketball.

Maybe you should start with a highschool education first or maybe just a 8th grade level knowledge of reading and writing. Maybe then you could write a coherent paragraph.

mobil1 writes:

This will be the last KNS story I read. The negative reporting is overwhelming. I also have to remember to Un-follow Gribble on Twitter.

This is garbage. So long, GVX.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to tmartin:

Maybe you should start with a highschool education first or maybe just a 8th grade level knowledge of reading and writing. Maybe then you could write a coherent paragraph.

Haha. See here is you guys problem at KNS as long as you can waive the "grammar" sword to make yourselves feel better ..then damn the content?..
Witch Doctor be you guys "dog" dont come when you guys call it..lol
Bones never lie.

NeylandWest writes:

in response to BillsBrother:

I remember when newspapers reported facts.

I have no idea if this is legitmate journalism or a sports version of National Enquirer.

Amen, brother! KNS is all about creating the news. It's down right silly. I'm so tired of them pushing their agendas at the sake of sacrificing the facts.

FrostyVol writes:

I was willing to give Gribble some time to develop, but this breathless reporting of a complete non-story is beyond the pale. This isnt making a mountain out of a mole hill, it's making a mole hill out of a speck. The hysterical protests in the story "...b-b-bbut, there were TWO chairs BLOCKING off the room..!!" is pathetic muckracking. Please, Andrew, this isnt ground breaking reporting. It's beneath you. Why not go out and work the recruiting beat considering it is the week before NSD? Seems like Hooker is starting to scoop you on some of these recruiting stories now. Perhaps if you devoted a bit more time to it..

allntl1#565211 writes:

We have some stupid athletes who seem to be caught up in their own path to fame instead of concentrating on the reason they are at the University. The scoreboard is shedding light on this conundrum of misplaced loyalties and distractions. Thankyou Coach Pearl

EMBuckles writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Haha. Witch Doctor say he keeps paperboy hours. Witch Doctor bet his mommy has a warm bowl of oatmeal waiting on him...ahhhhh hes so pathetic.
lol.
Bones never lie.

His Mommy oughta give him a big bowl of "monkey brain pot pie", put some meat on his bones! ;>

Here's a song for him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgfpJW...

GerryOP writes:

Were these two barhopkids on the KNS payroll before they told their stories or were they added to the payroll after they told their stories? Or were they simply paid 50 bucks for telling their stories? Or were they added to the bar staff after the KNS heard "...something is going to happen at the New Amsterdam Saturday night?" Part time employees ... for one night.

Or have we all fallen into the standard KNS trap? "Advertising is down ... gotta pump up the blog hits."

EMBuckles writes:

in response to jsmithnga#207674:

Do you remember ooh e ooh aah aah ting tang walla walla bing bang? Been missing you glad to see your comments.

Our friend the Witch Doctor! ;>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgfpJW...

EMBuckles writes:

in response to EMBuckles:

Our friend the Witch Doctor! ;>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgfpJW...

OOOPS!! WRONG link! SORRY!("blush") Hopefully, here is the RIGHT link in honor of Witch Doctor! Don't wanna get MY head shrunk!! ;>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYgOlq...

Volgrad777 writes:

Is this for real KNS? This might be the largest smear campaign ive ever witnessed from you goof balls. This Ramey kid needs to get a life as this story isnt going to "propel him to the big time".....you know up there with Johnny Adams and Mike "damn right he is" Strange. Using a college girl bartender/part time copy editor who is one of your employees ( who most likely would say anything to keep from being fired ) as a source in this matter literally shows how juvenille and unprofessional you guys really are. Its almost laughable to read this piece and not think wow, not much story here but KNS sure is trying to push one. How about you, KNS and Ramey ease up a bit there Nancy Drew.

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