Muhammad Ali calls to unite Louisville, backs Rick Pitino

ByDana O'Neil ESPN logo
Friday, October 23, 2015

The most famous citizen of Louisville, Kentucky, is trying to unite the university's fractured fan base amid the fallout of the scandal involving the men's basketball team.

On Thursday night, Muhammad Ali tweeted to his 666,000 followers asking them to share the hashtag #UniteLouisville.

The former boxing champion's hope is to bring together the athletes, students, alumni and fans of the embattled school. Family spokesman Bob Gunnell also stressed that Ali wants to show his support for coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

"That is very important to Muhammad and his family," Gunnell said.

Ali, 73, received the Grawemeyer Spirit Award from Louisville last month for helping inspire others, and he occasionally attends Cardinals football games. His son Assad played baseball at Louisville.

The school, and more specifically Pitino, has come under fire after an escort alleged that a former men's basketball staffer paid for prostitutes to strip and have sex with recruits and players at an on-campus dormitory. Pitino has denied any knowledge of the parties, but the NCAA, University of Louisville police and the school are all investigating the allegations made in the book "Breaking Cardinal Rules" by Katina Powell.

Earlier this week, five players confirmed to Outside the Lines that the women did come to strip and that some had sex with the players and recruits, all paid for by former director of basketball operations Andre McGee.

Pitino told and Yahoo! Sports that McGee is the only person who knows the truth and that "he needs to come out and tell the truth to his teammates, to the University of Louisville, to his fans and to his coaches."

In a blog post Thursday, the Hall of Fame coach wrote that he would not resign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Video