An assistant football coach for a high school in Washington State, coach Joe Kennedy of the Bremerton School District, is finally back to doing what he loves, coaching young men, eight years after being fired in 2015 for holding a voluntary prayer on the 50-yard line at the end of games for players.
Coach Kennedy, whose case twice went to the Supreme Court, settled his lawsuit for $1,775,000 after the United States Supreme Court sided with Coach Kennedy and ruled that his high school and the school district in which it sat violated his First Amendment rights to both freedom of speech and freedom of religion by firing him for praying at the end of games.
Part of that settlement is that Coach Kennedy be able to return to coaching this season and so, with football season finally back with the fall, he’ll get to return to the field with the young men at the Bremerton high school.
Speaking to KOMO News, Coach Kennedy said that he’s a bit nervous about returning, though he has gotten what he asked for, which is being able to coach and pray after the game: “I’m a little nervous, to tell you the truth, and it’s more just because first game is coming up and it’s been… I got to get… knock the rust off. It’s been awhile. I know Sept. 1 (the team’s first game of the season) is what I’ve asked for to be able to be a coach and be able to take a knee after the game. Thankful for it. That’s all I ever asked for. Anything beyond that, it’s just gonna be gravy.”
He also claimed he hasn’t gotten any guidance yet on how he can pray with the players, saying, when asked about guidance from the district, “I don’t have any guidance on that yet. They’re still trying to figure that out. I know that I’m allowed to pray after a football game, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Then, when KOMO News asked Coach Kennedy if he could just bow his head and pray rather than kneel on the 50-yard line, he said, “I could, but my commitment was, you know, that’s the way I’ve always done it. When I said I was going to give God the glory after every game, win or lose, on the football field.”
Continuing, he added, “That’s my tradition; that’s what I’ll do. I’ll be just as good, really makes no difference. God doesn’t care, but I want to be thankful. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand after the game. I might be a little emotional about it and taking a knee might be a good thing.”
However, he’s not sure how long he will stay on the coaching staff. He said, when speaking about players sticking with the team for many years through JV and Varsity, “That was a blessing and a curse — that’s why I stayed eight years the first time. Every year I had another kid say, ‘Coach, you got to stay for my senior year, just one more year,’ and I’m not making any promises.”
Watch Coach Kennedy react to the SCOTUS ruling here:
Featured image credit: screengrab from the embedded video
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