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U. Oklahoma coaches claim they can discipline players for their politics

Two women’s volleyball coaches at the University of Oklahoma argue in a legal motion that they have the right to discipline players for their political beliefs.

Player Kylee McLaughlin sued coaches Lindsey and Kyle Walton along with the OU Board of Regents earlier this year, alleging “she had been excluded from the team […] over her politically conservative views.”

The OU Daily reported that McLaughlin, the OU team captain and first team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and 2019, had made comments that “at least one” of her teammates considered “racist” following a team viewing of the Netflix documentary “13th.”

McLaughlin was told to attend a follow-up discussion on the issue — mass incarceration of black Americans — which she did.

Later, after McLaughlin had tweeted out her disagreement (a skull and crossbones and laughing clown emojis) at the University of Texas’s possible dropping of its school song “The Eyes of Texas,” Lindsey Walton “urg[ed] her to delete [the] tweet.” In a subsequent hour-long phone conversation, she told McLaughlin “I can’t save you when you get into the real world when you leave here.”

Kyle Walton allegedly told McLaughlin “[I’m] not sure I can coach you anymore.” McLaughlin did end up apologizing to U. Texas’s volleyball players and head coach for her tweet.

MORE: U. Texas prof rips ‘White Sports Media Complex’

But McLaughlin was now “branded as a racist and homophobe” by her coaches and teammates, according to her lawsuit. She was given the option of transferring schools, keeping her scholarship as a student, or “redshirting for the season and practicing separately without her teammates throughout the year.”

According to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, in their motion to dismiss the Waltons argue that even though they were the ones who injected politics into the team, they have the right to discipline those with differing views — in the name of “team unity.”

“While Plaintiff was free to make bigoted statements, she was not free from the consequences of how her teammates perceived those statements,” the Waltons’ motion states. “The First Amendment cannot force her teammates to trust Plaintiff or desire to play with her. Consequently, the Complaint makes clear that Coach Walton was within her rights to cultivate a winning ‘team atmosphere by ensuring the players that ‘trust’ each other would be on the court.”

In a nutshell: At a public university they can force players into volleyball-irrelevant political discussions … and to preserve “team unity” all players must agree with them.

Incredibly, the Waltons also contend restricting McLaughlin’s First Amendment rights in political discussions (again, introduced by them) is akin to enforcing rules during an actual volleyball match: “As it relates to on court conduct, for example, students are not at liberty to question the decisions of the coach via a First Amendment claim.”

The Board of Regents also filed a motion to dismiss McLaughlin’s suit, claiming it is an “’inimical rant’ related to ‘difficult conversations that followed the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide discussions of social injustice and inequality in America.’”

Read the OU Daily and OCPA articles, and the Waltons’ motion to dismiss.

MORE: U. blocks vaguely conservative message by lacrosse team, forces its own politics on students

IMAGE: minusequalsplus / Flickr.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.