A former University of Oklahoma (OU) volleyball player filed a lawsuit against her coaches and the Board of Regents after she was allegedly removed from the team for criticizing a social justice movie.
22-year-old Kylee McLaughlin filed a lawsuit that claims her former OU coaches cast her “in a false light” and intentionally inflicted “emotional distress” on her for her Christian, conservative views. The lawsuit argues that the coaches punished McLaughlin for exercising her constitutional right to free speech.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the racial unrest in the country, the OU women’s volleyball team allegedly “changed dramatically” and focused on “discussions about white privilege and social justice rather than coaching volleyball.” According to the lawsuit, the team was required to participate in discussions and watch a documentary called “13th” on racism and slavery.
Following the documentary, McLaughin — who, at the time, was the team captain — said that she “agreed 100 percent that slavery was wrong and that slavers were mistreated.” She also said that she felt the documentary was slanted to the “left” because it compared President Trump with the beatings of black people in the 1960s.
A teammate tweeted out McLaughlin’s comments and said they were “things a racist person says.” When the slanderous comments were brought to the coach’s attention, the teammate was not punished or contacted to McLaughlin’s knowledge.
On June 12, 2020, McLaughlin posted two emojis, a skull and crossbones and a clown, attached to an ESPN article about the University of Texas — OU’s biggest rival — wanting to get rid of its fight song because of alleged racism. At 10:30 pm, the head coach texted McLaughlin saying that they needed to discuss her post.
The following day, McLaughlin and the head coach spoke on the phone for an hour and a half. McLaughlin was instructed to remove her social media posts and was told that her post violated guidelines about slandering opponents.
In a separate phone call, the head coach allegedly told McLaughlin to check her white privilege.
Prior to this interaction with her coaches, McLaughlin had excelled in school, was awarded the OU athlete of the year award, and was captain of the team both her sophomore and junior year.
Three days after McLaughlin’s social media post, the coaches, a Psychological Research Organization (PRO) representative, and a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) representative as well as all incoming seniors of the volleyball team held a meeting with McLaughlin. She claims that her coaches and teammates called her a racist and a homophobe.
At one point in the meeting, McLaughlin alleges that the assistant coach said, “I’m not sure I can coach you anymore.”
On June 16, she was forced to call the Texas women’s volleyball coach and apologize for calling the national news about the Texas fight song foolish. The Texas team accepted her apology.
The lawsuit alleges that these interactions tarnished McLaughlin’s reputation.
“As a consequence of this political discourse, accusing a person in the OU community of being a racist or homophobe clearly blemishes that person’s good name and reputation,” the lawsuit reads.
The coaches insisted on having another meeting with the PRO and DEI representatives as well as other athletic staffers. In the meeting, McLaughlin was told she can no longer play on the team.
McLaughlin was given three options:
- Redshirt to keep her scholarship and practice only with the coaches, though she would be required to undergo DEI training
- Keep her scholarship and remain a student
- Transfer schools
In the lawsuit, McLaughlin alleges that her coaches were pressuring her to transfer. When McLaughlin entered the NCAA transfer portal, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) reached out. After speaking with the OU coaches, UCLA asked if McLaughlin if she was redshirted for political reasons. They promptly backtracked, stating that there was no longer an opportunity available for her at UCLA.
McLaughlin opted to redshirt and practice only with her coaches. By September 2020, it became clear that the coaches were not interested in responding to her and allegedly lied to her about her ability to practice in-house due to coronavirus restrictions.
McLaughlin eventually transferred to the University of Mississippi to complete her collegiate volleyball career.
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