Praying football coach Joe Kennedy discusses his resignation after 1 game

Joe Kennedy resigned after just one game back on the field for Bremerton High School. The assistant high school football coach lost his job during a controversy over his public post-game prayers.

Kennedy was back on the field Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court held his practice was protected by the Constitution.

Joe Kennedy strode alone to midfield, knelt and prayed for about 10 seconds after his Bremerton High School football team beat visiting Mount Douglas Secondary School 27-12 Friday night.

The Bremerton School District gave FOX 13 News this statement: "The District has received Mr. Kennedy's resignation and it is pending board approval at tomorrow's regularly scheduled meeting. The District does not comment on personnel matters, so we will not be issuing any further statements."

Kennedy cited multiple reasons for his resignation, including taking care of his father-in-law out of state and the environment of the school. 

According to a statement on his website: "I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do. I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected. 

"As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in. In my case, I made a stand to take a knee. I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit. I appreciate the people of Bremerton, the coaches, staff and especially the students and wish them all well. Bremerton will always be home."

As of Wednesday night, Kennedy said he has not heard any feedback from players. Though, he said he wasn't really allowed to talk to them about anything. 

"We knew it wasn’t going to be a picnic for anybody, seemed like both sides were put into a weird situation, being forced to take me back and me forcing my way back," he told FOX 13. 

The district also said he had to have a 25-foot kid-free space around him while he prayed and wanted him to wait 20 minutes after a game before taking a knee in prayer.

Kennedy told FOX 13 in the past that he's working on a book and a movie is being made about his experiences.


Bremerton school board reaches nearly $2M settlement with praying football coach Joe Kennedy

The Bremerton School Board accepted a nearly $2 million settlement with Joe Kennedy, who was fired for praying on the field. Kennedy is also being reinstated as a high school football coach.

Back for one game

Kennedy was not joined by any athletes or others on the nearly empty field. There was scattered applause from the modest crowd at Memorial Stadium.

Police and private security guards were on hand but there didn't appear to be any problems or interruptions during or after the event.

Kennedy had fought to be rehired for seven years but seemed more anxious than triumphant about his return.

"Knowing that everybody’s expecting me to go do this kind of gives me a lot of angst in my stomach," Kennedy said before the game. "People are going to freak out that I’m bringing God back into public schools."'

Joe Kennedy, assistant coach for the Bremerton High School Knights football team, stands near the 50-yard line in Bremerton, Wash., on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. Years after Kennedy left the team over objections to his post-game praying on the field,

It was his first game as coach since 2015, when he was placed on leave after warnings from the school district, which eventually declined to renew his contract.

The district had asked Kennedy to keep any on-field praying non-demonstrative or apart from students, saying they were concerned that tolerating his public post-game prayers would suggest government endorsement of religion, in violation of the separation of church and state.

Kennedy’s fight to get his job back quickly became a cultural touchstone, pitting the religious liberties of government employees against longstanding principles protecting students from religious coercion.

He lost at every court level until the merits of his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The conservative majority sided with him, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing "the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike."

The legal fight transformed Kennedy's life in ways he never anticipated. He has a book coming out in October called "Average Joe," with a number of release events planned. He appeared at a 2016 rally for Donald Trump, and he and his wife recently had dinner with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a GOP presidential hopeful who asked for his help on the campaign trail.

"He’s like, ‘I want you to be on my faith advisory board.’ And I’m like, ‘Let me get back to you on that,’" Kennedy recalled. "And he just invited me to Iowa and he calls me and he says, ‘Hey, I really need to know, are you in my camp or not?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry. My loyalty is to Trump.’"

DeSantis’ campaign did not return messages seeking comment.

Kennedy, 54, is grappling with whether football still fits into his life. After spending so long trying to get his job back, Kennedy said he felt a duty to return to Washington state for the part-time job that paid him less than $5,000.

But he and his wife live in Florida now — he has been staying with a friend in Bremerton.