Coach Kennedy resigns days after triumphant return to field

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


The Washington state high school football coach fired for praying on-field and reinstated after a Supreme Court victory has resigned.

Joseph Kennedy made the announcement less than a week after his emotional return to the field for Bremerton High School’s opening game, citing retaliation from the Bremerton School District.

“[I]t is apparent that the reinstatement ordered by the Supreme Court will not be fully followed after a series of actions meant to diminish my role and single me out in what I can only believe is retaliation by the school district,” Kennedy wrote in a statement obtained by Fox News. “Therefore, I am tendering my immediate resignation.”

The form the alleged retaliation took remains unclear.

“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,” Kennedy wrote. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case.”

The former coach and Marine veteran also cited the need to care for an out-of-state family member who is ill as a factor in his decision.


After leading his team to victory one last time Friday, Kennedy once again made his way to midfield, knelt, and gave thanks to the Lord. Onlookers in the stadium’s bleachers applauded as “Coach Kennedy” made the symbolic walk out to the 50-yard line, marking the end of a seven-year battle for religious freedom that went all the way to the nation’s highest court.

Kennedy was reinstated in March 2023, less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his on-field prayers are protected under the First Amendment. 

“I had a whole bunch of the team there,” Kennedy said after the game, according to Faithpot. Several players painted crosses on their faces as a sign of their faith in God and support for their coach. 

Kennedy expressed gratitude to members of the community, including his former players – now adults – who came out to support him at Friday’s game. “There were so many who were on our side,” he said. “A lot of [the players] wanted to join me in prayer, but it was one of those really fine lines that I didn’t want to cross with the school on my first day back … I just wanted to do it by myself.”

Standing alongside his wife, Denise, and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “take a knee” and “take a stand,” an emotional Kennedy told a postgame press conference: “We have fought the good fight, and we have finished this race, and we kept the faith the whole entire time.” He added that “it was absolutely, 100 percent worth it,” according to a World news report. 

Kennedy’s attorney, Hiram Sasser, who works for the nonprofit First Liberty Institute, was also on hand to celebrate the end of their yearslong ordeal, during which he and his client faced repeated losses in the court system prior to their ultimate Supreme Court victory.

“We were 0-5 going into the Super Bowl,” Sasser said. “What you saw at the end, him praying by himself, was what we fought for,” he continued. “You’ve just gotta ask yourself, ‘Why in the world did we have to fight for seven years to get to that?’ But for whatever reason, we had to, and it’s great to be able to come full circle and have that Supreme Court win under the belt and now, him being able to exercise his rights the way the Constitution was written.”

Sasser helped secure a $1.7 million settlement for his client from the Bremerton School District following the Bench’s ruling.


Kennedy already hinted at what his next move might be days before he tendered his resignation, telling Fox that he and his wife have discussed the possibility of embarking on missions-related work.  He said that he “traveled all over” during his two decades of military service but that Denise has not been overseas.

“We saw what the rest of the world was like, and we’re so spoiled here as Americans,” he said. “And I would like to be able to have her experience that and then come back here and really work for God.”

He added: “I don’t know if that’s just us or joining somebody else’s team, but we want to be able to support as many people as we can and help as many people as we can — maybe in marriages.” Kennedy shared that his ongoing legal battles – not to mention finding himself at the center of the nation’s battle over religious freedom – put his marriage to the test but ultimately made it stronger.

“We finished the race, you know, and we kept the faith with God,” he said.

Kennedy also has a book coming out next month titled: “Average Joe: The Coach Joe Kennedy Story.”

Whatever the future may hold for Kennedy, the impact of his unwavering faith and resolve cannot be underestimated. His Supreme Court victory provided critical legal precedent in the fight to preserve religious freedom guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.