According to CNN, Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy waited until after Friday night’s game against the Centralia Tigers had ended and all the players had left the field.
Then, as he has done for the past seven years, Kennedy walked out to mid-field, knelt, closed his eyes and prayed.
According to the Seattle Times, his simple prayer went something like this: “Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers.”
But when he opened his eyes, he found himself surrounded by what CNN called a “huge crowd of supporters.”
“I’ve got my eyes closed and I feel all these people around me. I’m like, God, I hope those aren’t kids,” Kennedy told reporters later with tears in his eyes. “I’m sitting there and I’m going, ‘God, thank you for this opportunity. And … if this is the last time I step on the field with these guys …”
The Bremerton School District had warned Kennedy, whom Franklin Graham said is a former Marine, to discontinue the prayers. Graham’s post about the incident racked up almost 150,000 likes on Facebook in about eight hours.
“The district is in no way taking away an athletic coach’s freedom of expression,” Superintendent Aaron Leavell said in a statement cited by CNN. “What we are doing is what every state-funded agency and school district must do: abide by the laws that govern us.”
“Whatever happens happens, you know,” Kennedy told the Bremerton Patriot. “But I’m going to be bold in my faith and I’m going to fight the good fight and I want to set that example for every one of the kids if you believe in something.”
Serves the Bremerton School District right. They should have known better than to mess with a former U.S. Marine.