Bernard King says he faced racism at Tennessee

CORRRECTS SPELLING OF GRUNFELD - FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2007 file photo, former Tennessee basketball players Bernard King, right, and Ernie Grunfeld, laugh during a ceremony to retire King's #53 jersey during halftime of the Tennessee-Kentucky game in Knoxville, Tenn.   In an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

CORRRECTS SPELLING OF GRUNFELD - FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2007 file photo, former Tennessee basketball players Bernard King, right, and Ernie Grunfeld, laugh during a ceremony to retire King's #53 jersey during halftime of the Tennessee-Kentucky game in Knoxville, Tenn. In an ESPN "30 For 30" documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows Bernard King during his NCAA college basketball days with the Tennessee Volunteers. In an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows Bernard King during his NCAA college basketball days with the Tennessee Volunteers. In an ESPN "30 For 30" documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows Bernard King during his NCAA college basketball days with the Tennessee Volunteers. In an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows Bernard King during his NCAA college basketball days with the Tennessee Volunteers. In an ESPN "30 For 30" documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013 file photo, inductee Bernard King speaks during the enshrinement ceremony for the 2013 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass. In an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013 file photo, inductee Bernard King speaks during the enshrinement ceremony for the 2013 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass. In an ESPN "30 For 30" documentary airing Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, about the friendship between King and teammate Ernie Grunfeld, King publicly discusses for the first time incidents of racism he says he encountered while in college. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bernard King says he dealt with racism off the court that included clashes with police while starring for Tennessee in the 1970s.

In an ESPN "30 for 30" documentary airing Tuesday, King said that former Volunteers coach Ray Mears warned him that he'd heard some local officers would "do anything to get him."

King, the first former Tennessee player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, cites one incident in which he says an officer hit him in the head with the butt of his gun while responding to a loitering report. The documentary, titled "Bernie and Ernie," focuses on the friendship of King and former Tennessee teammate Ernie Grunfeld.

King played for Tennessee from 1974-77 after arriving from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. He said he had never talked about the racism he encountered during his college years with anyone but his family before discussing the issue in the film.

"The basic reason is relatively simple," King said in a telephone interview. "I'm 56 years old. I've never talked about anything that was private. Everything was always related to the game and my impact on the game of basketball and what I thought about that. I never revealed anything from the private side. I just felt compelled at this time in my life to talk about those things because for many years you carry that around. It was very important for me to share that."

The 14-year NBA veteran, who now lives in Atlanta, stressed that he has "no bitterness whatsoever" toward his alma mater.

"I wish the university and the basketball team all the success in the world," King said. "I would recommend that any athlete on the basketball side or football side or any sport, I would recommend the University of Tennessee for them. I don't harbor any bitterness. You can't go through life like that. It eats you up."

Tennessee honored King in a 2007 ceremony in which he became the first men's basketball player to have his jersey retired by the school. King said that represented the first time he'd been back on campus in 30 years. He came back to Tennessee the following year when the Vols held a similar ceremony for Grunfeld.

King has since returned to Knoxville to attend "a number of games," to fulfill some business obligations and to have meals with former Vols coach Bruce Pearl.

King also said he spoke with current Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin a few weeks ago and hopes to get together with him soon.

"I think it's great," Martin said. "You're talking about a legendary guy. Not only just that he's a Hall of Fame basketball player, a great basketball player, but he's a guy who's done it at a high level at this university. So now these guys can identify one of the greatest that ever played the game, he actually played at the school that I attend. ... He's a guy who scored, he played with a level of toughness, he played injured, he competed at a high level.

"He's one of those guys who's been through it all. You can learn from him as a basketball player, even as a coach."

King said he has noticed how much Knoxville had changed since the years that he played for Tennessee. He sees far more diversity. The passage of time has helped him make his peace with the community.

"Everyone in Knoxville has always been very warm to me during my trips back to town," King said. "It's a different era. It's a different time. It's a different generation. Therefore, my interaction with everyone is quite different than it was back then."

King was a three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year and an All-American at Tennessee. He had 25.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per game at Tennessee and is the only Vol to average a double-double for his career. He continues to own the school's single-season scoring record with 26.4 points per game in 1974-75.

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Comments » 19

rainbow6 writes:

HHHHMMMMM?

UTANDNOBAMA writes:

Well... That was 40 years ago.... The reason there was racism was because UT took steps to get those black players here. We had the first black football player in the SEC... The second black basketball player in the SEC... The first black head coach of basketball or football in Wade Houston... You stick your neck out to do the right thing and you sometimes become a target. We are not having this discussion about the other schools in the SEC (Save Vandy who Signed Perry Wallace in 1967) because they let Tennessee take the point and the heat for doing the right thing in the first place.

underthehill writes:

Bernard..at 56 years old ..if you're gonna tell it ..tell it all brother..you was the best ever at UT on the basketball floor and a nightmare for Coach Mears and the local police when not on it ..and you know it better than anybody..I had season tickets when you played and don't think I ever missed a home game..my best memories of UT basketball..you may have had to deal with racism at the Kentucky games..but not at UT..if I recall correctly..you took a few things that did not belong to you and got some special treatment..I had a friend on the basketball team who loved to tell Bernard King stories and I heard enough to know ..you took full advantage of your status at UT as a great athlete who expected and received special treatment..so I think you are a bit off base to talk racism at UT..

halhhaynes#364264 writes:

Without question he and "Ernie" were the best to ever wear the orange for Tennessee. I remember how thrilled I was to see those guys on the cover of SI and those incredible Saturday wins against Kentucky and Alabama. That was a magical time in Tennessee basketball history. THANK YOU Bernard King for being such a great Vol!

ccjensen writes:

Racism in Tennessee? Racism in Knoxville? Impossible. LOL

MoonpieSally writes:

Bernard - racism, really? You were the darling of our sports lives at UT during the 70s. You could do no wrong (grin).
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vaul...

lonesome_dove writes:

is this the year when ex-Vols who have parlayed their collegiate careers into millions of $$$$$$$ for themselves come back to bite the University that gave them their chance (and put up with their attitudes and bad acts while they were were here).

you are soooooooooooo welcome Bernard and Arian and .........................

knoxknothead writes:

in response to underthehill:

Bernard..at 56 years old ..if you're gonna tell it ..tell it all brother..you was the best ever at UT on the basketball floor and a nightmare for Coach Mears and the local police when not on it ..and you know it better than anybody..I had season tickets when you played and don't think I ever missed a home game..my best memories of UT basketball..you may have had to deal with racism at the Kentucky games..but not at UT..if I recall correctly..you took a few things that did not belong to you and got some special treatment..I had a friend on the basketball team who loved to tell Bernard King stories and I heard enough to know ..you took full advantage of your status at UT as a great athlete who expected and received special treatment..so I think you are a bit off base to talk racism at UT..

That's also the way I remember it he drove coach Mears to a break down

Slats writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

southernbelle79 writes:

I am glad he feels no racism in Knoxville these days. I was born and bred in the Deep South, and the racism I see here today is nothing compared to what I grew up with. Having said that, having moved from the north to TN, the in your face, blatant racism I have experienced here was rare where I was.

Oldhickory writes:

in response to ccjensen:

Racism in Tennessee? Racism in Knoxville? Impossible. LOL

There's racism in every city and state, but only Vandy has a Confererate Memorial Hall.

http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2009/...

UTANDNOBAMA writes:

in response to southernbelle79:

I am glad he feels no racism in Knoxville these days. I was born and bred in the Deep South, and the racism I see here today is nothing compared to what I grew up with. Having said that, having moved from the north to TN, the in your face, blatant racism I have experienced here was rare where I was.

Huh?

Volborn writes:

I wish folks who down play racism could walk around Knoxville(or any U.S city) in a black man's shoes for about a month. I would say they may have a different perspective after that. BTW, King accused the KPD of racism in the article, not Knoxville or UT. That's how I read it.

Atypical_liberal (Inactive) writes:

in response to Volborn:

I wish folks who down play racism could walk around Knoxville(or any U.S city) in a black man's shoes for about a month. I would say they may have a different perspective after that. BTW, King accused the KPD of racism in the article, not Knoxville or UT. That's how I read it.

BTW, King accused the KPD of racism in the article, not Knoxville or UT. That's how I read it.
-----
Good point. He also mentioned that times have changed.

Race relations in Knoxville are on some pretty fine footing, if you ask me. While many would like to perpetuate the hillbilly stereotype on our local white community, that alone can't conceal the history of racial harmony in East Tennessee. Knoxville has certainly had its bad moments, and the Clinton 12 has received worldwide notoriety. In my recollection, the only person in recent memory, to freely welcome the Klan in K-Town was Martha Boggs.

Life is too short for going around with a chip on your shoulder. Most of of us are looking for a friend; not an enemy.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

Yeah you guys kill me. He said nothing bad about the university. Remember guys the civil rights bill was just past in the mid sixties. I am sure he ran into some crazy stuff. The guy said he would tell any young man to attend UT. Give me a break, the man was not bitter at all

johnlg00 writes:

If the whole truth were known, there were any number of UT athletes, football players especially, who were no models of decorum in those days and previously, and even presently if in mostly more minor form. If they had been treated to the full extent of the law, some of them would have rap sheets as long as your arm. Most unsocial behavior by athletes was winked at in those days. But woe betide any black guy from New York who stepped out of line!

utfans#211352 writes:

What a joy it was to watch the Ernie and Bernie show. Great time for SEC basketball, a lot more entertaining than now. I have always found sports something that brings us all together I hate to think King was treated poorly in Knoxville, I am sure there was blame on both sides. I love Knoxville, UT and Bernard King was a hero to me.

MaxVolFan writes:

King is a classic example of a child that grew up neglected and abused for no reason by his parents and unfortunately alcohol became his best friend off the court. Thankfully his true friend Ernie was always there for him. Amazing talent Ernie and Bernie VFL

ThirdCreek writes:

in response to halhhaynes#364264:

Without question he and "Ernie" were the best to ever wear the orange for Tennessee. I remember how thrilled I was to see those guys on the cover of SI and those incredible Saturday wins against Kentucky and Alabama. That was a magical time in Tennessee basketball history. THANK YOU Bernard King for being such a great Vol!

Dale Ellis and Alan Houston were pretty good too.

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