A former assistant football coach at Illinois State University has filed a lawsuit against the school’s head football coach and its former athletic director for violating his First Amendment rights.
Kurt Beathard says that he was fired after he removed a Black Lives Matter poster from his door and replaced it with one that said “All Lives Matter to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the BLM sign was placed on his door while he was on leave during late spring and most of the summer of 2020 following the death of his wife from breast cancer.
Though Beathard left the sign up for less than two weeks, the lawsuit claims head coach Brock Spack and then-athletic director Larry Lyons terminated Beathard because “he did not toe the party line regarding Black Lives Matter.”
Beathard’s suit argues that he had the right to freely express his views under the First Amendment as an employee of a public university.
When he was fired, they claimed it was because Spack did not like the direction of the offense, however, the suit states that the team achieved national ranking with his offense in 2014 and 2015 and again in 2018 and 2019.
The Tribune report says that the lawsuit asserts that as tension grew on campus and the BLM movement was in full swing, “Beathard was approached by Spack and he was asked to remove the sign he created from his door.”
“Beathard took the poster down that day. But a colleague of Beathard’s shared a picture of the poster he recently took down. In response, some football players boycotted practice, according to the lawsuit.”
A few days later, he was fired.
Doug Churdar, Beathard’s attorney, said in a press release obtained by the Tribune, “It’s come to this. If you put the government’s message on your door, you keep your job. If you replace it with your own message, you’re fired. That’s exactly what happened.”
“There’s only one reason Beathard isn’t offensive coordinator at ISU: he did not toe the party line on BLM.”
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