Joe Kennedy leaves Bremerton High School football coaching job after 1 game

Sep 7, 2023, 7:39 AM | Updated: 8:01 am

Image: Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washin...

Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, poses for a photo on March 9, 2022, at the school's football field. (Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP file)

(Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP file)

Joe Kennedy’s return to the sidelines for the Bremerton High School football team lasted just one game as he resigned from his position as assistant coach Wednesday.

Kennedy confirmed the news with a statement on his website, saying the resignation is effective immediately.

He cited multiple reasons for his resignation, including the need to take care of an ailing family member out of state. Kennedy left the state of Washington and moved to Florida in recent years.

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system, so that is what I will do,” Kennedy stated on his website. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected.”

“The district has received Mr. Kennedy’s resignation, and it is pending board approval at tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting,” a Bremerton School District spokesperson confirmed to KIRO Newsradio Wednesday morning. “The District does not comment on personnel matters, so we will not be issuing any further statements.”

Bremerton School District spokesperson Karen Bevers also confirmed the news to The Seattle Times and The Kitsap Sun Wednesday morning.

Kennedy initially lost his job during a controversy over his public post-game prayers is back on the sideline after the U.S. Supreme Court held that his practice was protected by the Constitution.

After fighting to be rehired for seven years, there were questions about whether Kennedy wanted it anymore, and the thought of kneeling in the spotlight again made him queasy.

“Knowing that everybody’s expecting me to go do this kind of gives me a lot of angst in my stomach,” Kennedy said before Bremerton’s first game of the 2023 season last week. “People are going to freak out that I’m bringing God back into public schools.”

From Dave Ross: The case of kneeling former Bremerton coach interrogates the humility of prayer

Kennedy told KIRO Newsradio in March his plan was to pray on the 50-yard line during games this season.

“I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve always been doing,” Kennedy said at that time.

Kennedy rejoined the football team for its first preseason practice on Aug. 16 and took the sidelines for Bremerton’s first game Sept. 1 against Mount Douglas Secondary School of Victoria, British Columbia. Bremerton won 27-12, as the Kitsap Sun explained in its game story.

After his team’s win, Kennedy prayed at midfield by himself.

“I said ‘thank you’ probably 30 times,” Kennedy said, according to the Sun. “I had no other words.”

No students joined him, The Seattle Times noted. “A larger-than-normal crowd suggested Kennedy’s supporters showed up, but none stormed the field to join him in prayer, as happened at a 2015 homecoming game,” the outlet added.

Kennedy’s battle to get his job back quickly became a cultural touchstone, pitting the religious liberties of government employees against longstanding principles protecting students from religious coercion.

He lost at every court level until the merits of his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The conservative majority sided with him, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing, “The best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

“As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in. In my case, I made a stand to take a knee,” Kennedy said in his statement. “I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit.”

From the Gee & Ursula Show: Lincoln High School football coach steps down due to player safety concerns

The district reached a settlement of $1,775,000 for the attorney fees during an open public meeting in March.

The fees will be paid in interest-free installments over three fiscal years, the school district notes in a statement on its website.

In response to his story, Kennedy appeared at a 2016 rally for Donald Trump, and he and his wife recently had dinner with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a GOP presidential hopeful who asked for his help on the campaign trail.

A press release from a firm representing Kennedy noted Wednesday his new book, “Average Joe: The Coach Kennedy Story” will be available in October. It “tells the in-depth story about his battle for religious liberty.” The release also stated, “A film about his life is in pre-production.”

Contributing: Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio; The Associated Press

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Joe Kennedy leaves Bremerton High School football coaching job after 1 game