Roger Barbee: Letter to Coach Kennedy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2022

In May, The Sports Column’s Matthew Paris authored a piece on how the SCOTUS would be hearing a case about an assistant public high school coach who had been suspended for praying at mid-field following games. Later, that coach’s contract was not renewed. This past Monday SCOTUS issued its judgment, ruling in the coach’s favor.


Dear Coach Joseph Kennedy:


We do not know each other. But like many Americans, I have read about you because of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning your on-the-field prayers following games in Washington state. From what I read, you first began your prayers in 2015, and you said that your prayer was brief, and no player was forced to participate.

That said, I ask you to consider several things, which I offer to you as a coach with 40+ years of experience, and a Christ-follower.

As a coach, you have tremendous sway over your athletes, which I know you know. Because of your influence, please consider that you send a message to your athletes when you go to the 50-yard line after a game. They watch their coaches and want to please them. Do they come willingly to the 50-yard line or do they come because of the implied and direct pressure you send by your act?

I also ask you to consider your influence over young athletes, and whether your act brings any of them to be Christ-followers. Is your ritual (and it is a ritual) without dedication or deeper meaning? Are you teaching vain-repetition or something more Christ-like?

Is this the Christian message you want to send to the young athletes?

Jesus tells us, “… for they [Pharisees] love to pray to stand in the synagogues and the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men…. But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.…” Matthew 6:5,6 (KJV)

The verses I quote from the book of Matthew were the words of Jesus when he rebuked religious ostentation in His Sermon on the Mount. We are instructed not to make our prayers a performance for others, but rather, as a talk with His Father, a private conversation.

I ask you to think of these things.

Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. Contact him at