After a Supreme Court victory and being reinstated to his football coaching position, Joe Kennedy has submitted a letter of resignation to the Bremerton School District in Washington state.
“We have come to learn of serious allegations of retaliation against coach Kennedy by the Bremerton School District,” Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel at First Liberty Institute, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“They’ve done everything they can to make him feel unwelcome,” Sasser said, adding that First Liberty Institute, the legal organization that represented Kennedy throughout his legal battle, is “going to investigate the situation to determine whether further legal action is necessary.”
The Bremerton School District confirmed Kennedy’s resignation on its website Wednesday, stating, “The District has received Mr. Kennedy’s resignation, and it is pending board approval at tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting.”
In his resignation letter, Kennedy called it “apparent” that his “reinstatement ordered by the Supreme Court will not be fully followed after a series of actions meant to diminish my role and single me out in what I can only believe is retaliation by the school district.”
The coach added: “Bremerton’s football coaches, players, and parents have been such a blessing. I feel it is in everyone’s best interest I step back from coaching.”
Kennedy lost his assistant football coaching job at Bremerton High School, about 30 miles west of Seattle, in 2015 after he refused to break a covenant he made with God to take a knee in prayer at the 50-yard line after football games, a practice of Kennedy’s since he began coaching at the school in 2008.
The coach, along with First Liberty Institute, filed a lawsuit against the school and the case rose to the Supreme Court. In 2022, in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed Kennedy’s right to take a knee in silent prayer in view of the public after high school football games.
Kennedy’s victory meant he would be reinstated at the school, and in March, the Bremerton School Board voted on a nearly $2 million settlement with the assistant football coach. The district agreed to “settle the attorney fees claim for $1,775,000,” according to information shared on the Bremerton schools’ website. The attorneys’ fees are to be paid out over the course of three fiscal years.
From the time he began the legal fight, all Kennedy said he wanted was to coach the young men of Bremerton High School and give thanks to God afterward, a desire that was fulfilled under the lights Friday night with a winning game for the Bremerton Knights.
Prior to his first game back, Kennedy indicated in an interview with The Associated Press that he was not sure what the future held for him and his wife.
“We’ll make some decisions of what’s next in our life, because obviously it’s not going to be football forever,” Kennedy told the AP. “We’d like to do—I don’t know—maybe some ministry or something.”
Throughout Friday night’s game, Kennedy could be seen standing by himself away from the other coaches and players. “I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do tonight,” Kennedy said after the game, when The Daily Signal asked him why he was often separated from the players and coaches.
Kennedy did not say if there was any tension between himself and anyone else at the school upon his return, but did tell the press he hoped to feel “more embraced this coming week now that this part’s over.”
Asked about his future plans, Kennedy said, “I’m going to do whatever God tells me to do,” noting that he has children and grandchildren who live in Bremerton.
Kennedy and his wife, Denise, currently reside in Florida and have been caring for Kennedy’s aging father-in-law.
“Coach Kennedy’s family health situation is very serious, and he and his family are in our thoughts and prayers,” Sasser told The Daily Signal.
Kennedy’s publicist, Jennifer Willingham, said the coach is “looking forward to continue caretaking for his father-in-law in Florida and using his platform to raise awareness around the issues of religious liberty and freedom of speech.”
“At present, coach does not have plans to pursue coaching anywhere else,” Willingham told The Daily Signal.
Though he will not be coaching this fall, Kennedy will likely be busy, as a book telling his story, “Average Joe: The Coach Joe Kennedy Story,” is due out on Oct. 24.
“Those prayers I prayed on the 50-yard line after the Bremerton High School football games were never for attention, and certainly never to proselytize impressionable minors,” Kennedy writes. “As a 20-year Marine Corps veteran who fought in the first Gulf War, I simply took issue with my constitutional rights being assaulted—the rights I had risked my life to support and defend against when I took my oath of enlistment.”
Kennedy also details little-known stories about his troubled youth and his service in the Marines.
A movie about Kennedy’s life, also called “Average Joe,” is in production by GND Media Group, producer of the popular film series “God’s Not Dead.” A release date has not been announced.
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