The reason Coach Joe Kennedy decided to resign after his first game back at Bremerton High School following his Supreme Court victory is “pretty simple,” according to him.
“It seemed like the right thing to do to retire on my own terms,” Kennedy told The Daily Signal.
It was time to “retire” according to Kennedy, because “nothing is the same. None of these kids really know me. The coaching staff doesn’t really want me. The school definitely doesn’t want me. So, it just made perfect sense for us to just [say], ‘Hey, we finished the fight.’ You know, we were in the race to finish the fight, and we’ve remained faithful, and that’s it.”
The coach said the situation he encountered at the school upon his return was “what I expected.”
“I didn’t think much of it because I was expecting to go to an into a hostile territory and they were forced to take me back. So, I knew I wasn’t going to be welcomed with open arms,” he added.
In 2022, Kennedy won a 7-year legal fight against the Bremerton School District to take a knee in silent prayer after football games. From the time the legal battle began in 2015, all Kennedy says he wanted was to coach the Bremerton Knights and be allowed to take a knee in prayer after games.
Following his victory at the Supreme Court, the Bremerton School District, located about 30 miles west of Seattle, issued an Aug. 16 statement saying, “We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly 8-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible.”
Kennedy says he disagrees with the school district because “the Constitution is not a distraction … The lawsuit wasn’t a distraction. This was something major. This was a landmark case that we can all learn from, but they didn’t look at it that way. They just looked at it [that] I was a distraction.”
Bremerton School District did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Kennedy also acknowledged that the poor health of his father-in-law, who lives in Florida, played a role in his decision to submit his letter of resignation on Sept. 6. Kennedy and his wife Denise moved to Florida during the legal fight with Bremerton High School in order to care for their ailing relative who has recently received negative news regarding his health.
Asked whether he plans to continue coaching, Kennedy said he has been offered jobs at private schools since the start of the legal fight, but has declined the offers because “I shouldn’t have to go to a private school, or somewhere else to coach.”
“This is an American thing that every American should be able to do,” he said, referring to the constitutional right to pray.
A result of the nearly 8-year legal fight is that the “fun of coaching was taken away from me,” Kennedy said.
“I don’t know what’s next,” he admitted. “I’m waiting for God to, you know, help clue me in.”
Kennedy said he and his wife have talked about going on some mission trips or maybe working in ministry, or even going back to school, but right now, the coach says they are “taking a deep breath … we’re recuperating from the marathon that we ran.”
Thinking back to his night on the field Sept. 1, Kennedy said the young men on the Bremerton High School football team gave him “the perfect, absolutely perfect, night.”
It was a perfect night in every way, shape or form. … It was like they gave me just the best sendoff ever. And I’m so proud of them. They’re just so awesome. And hopefully, they understand, you know, that this wasn’t a new beginning. This was the final chapter.
And they saw that I did run the race and I did well. And I just hope that they … keep doing well and fight until there’s nothing left on their clock.
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.
To the Bremerton School District, Kennedy says it is “unfortunate” that there was “friction between us,” but added, “I’ve never held this personally.”
“I did my best to, you know, look at this as this was the case that the courts needed to answer and really [had] little to do with Bremerton. Their lawyers made it a personal thing,” he said.
“I wish them well,” Kennedy said of the school. “I have no ill feelings towards them whatsoever. I love Bremerton.”
The coach says he knows the “people that are going to hate are going to hate, and that’s the great thing about America. They can say whatever they want because I helped … fight and defend the Constitution. So, they have that right of free speech, and I will always fight for them, even if they’re not on my side.”
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