SEATTLE (Christian Examiner)—Last week former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Times in favor of suspended Washington high school coach Joe Kennedy.
Citing his own tough childhood as an example, Largent told newspaper readers that he depended upon the steady leadership of coaches like Kennedy.
"He is the kind of man who not only cares about his players because that's what coaches are supposed to do, but because he has seen tough times as a teenager in Bremerton himself," wrote Largent, a former Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate from Oklahoma. "He celebrates and loves his players the way we would hope all coaches do, but far exceeds that standard."
Kennedy serves as an assistant coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash., which is a one-hour ferry ride from Seattle. The embattled assistant coach was suspended in late October for continuing to have silent, on-field prayers following games after the school district asked him to stop.
According to an article in Examiner.com, Kennedy said prior to the suspension decision by the district, "Whatever happens happens, you know. 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."
Largent said he was troubled by the district's decision to suspend Kennedy because of his commitment to pray.
"When I learned of Kennedy's suspension, I was baffled," wrote Largent, who has long been known as a committed evangelical Christian. "We have a coach that seven years ago knelt down after the game and quietly thanked his Creator for the safety of his players. It was not mandatory; in fact no one was invited to pray with him. Soon players of no faith and different faiths asked to join him as they walked off the field, to which he would reply, 'It's a free country.'"
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The first Seattle Seahawks player to have his number retired, Largent remains one of the most significant professional athletes in the city's history. He retired after the 1989 season with many of the National Football League's career receiving records, including most receptions, most receiving touchdowns and most receiving yards. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
In the article Largent calls Kennedy "a model of a man" who should be celebrated by the district rather than suspended. He adds that public employees—including school district employees—should suffer no extra restrictions because of their faith.
"The young men on the Bremerton High football team need their coach back," Largent wrote in conclusion. "The Bremerton School District should immediately reinstate their coach and role model."