A star volleyball player and conservative Christian has filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma, claiming coaches on the women's volleyball team punished her for her views, excluded her from the team, and violated her free speech rights.
What are the details?
Kylee McLaughlin — who was the team captain and a first team All-Big 12 player for the Sooners in 2018 and 2019, according to OU Daily — named head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, assistant coach Kyle Walton, and the school in the suit for a minimum of $75,000 in damages for financial loss, humiliation, and mental anguish and suffering, KFOR-TV reported.
The suit said that during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the death of George Floyd, the team "emphasized discussions about white privilege and social justice rather than coaching volleyball," the station reported, adding that players were required to participate in discussions and watch a documentary on racism and slavery. OU Daily said it was the Netflix documentary "13th."
When Kyle asked McLaughlin for her opinion on the documentary, according to the suit, she replied that while slavery was wrong, the film was slanted "left" and was critical of then-President Donald Trump. When asked for more input, the suit says McLaughlin replied with commentary directly from the documentary — that black people were incarcerated at a higher rate than other racial groups despite representing a smaller overall percentage of the population.
Following that discussion, a teammate accused McLaughlin of racism in a social media post, the suit says.
The suit adds that Gray-Walton in a 90-minute phone call "ordered" McLaughlin to remove a social media post that used a laughing clown emoji in regard to the University of Texas wanting to abolish its fight song, "The Eyes of Texas," due to its alleged racist content and history. In addition, Gray-Walton told McLaughlin she needed to identify the "white privilege" inside her, the suit says.
Days later, the suit says McLaughlin was called a "racist and a homophobe" during a Zoom meeting with incoming seniors, coaches, and a representative from the school's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. And despite McLaughlin's attempt at an apology, the suit says it wasn't accepted since it lacked sufficient "feeling."
McLaughlin later called the University of Texas volleyball team to apologize for her "Eyes of Texas" post, the suit says.
'Ultimatum' allegedly issued
During another Zoom meeting with Gray-Walton and other OU staffers, the suit says McLaughlin "was told she did not fit the culture of the program, and they could not trust her based on comments she had made (according to teammates) in the past ..." — and she was given an "ultimatum."
The suit says she had three choices: 1) keep her scholarship, red shirt, practice only with the coach and not the team, and receive diversity training; 2) keep her scholarship and just be a student; 3) transfer to another college "with only two weeks left before volleyball started for fall semester."
After the meeting, the suit says McLaughlin cried for three days, could not sleep, and refused to eat. The suit added that McLaughlin initially choose to red shirt but then decided to try to transfer to UCLA, which was unsuccessful — and that a UCLA assistant coach is a friend and former assistant coach of Gray-Walton.
What's more, the suit says that after McLaughlin tested positive for COVID-19 last September and was quarantining in a hotel, Gray-Walton contacted one of McLaughlin's roommates and asked if she was "doing okay" living with McLaughlin and her other "conservative" roommate. The suit adds that Gray-Walton and other volleyball coaches later helped two of McLaughlin's roommates move out of the apartment they shared while McLaughlin was in class and without any notice.
In addition, the suit says McLaughlin was given a "growth plan" from the school's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that included training about unlearning "classism," "ableism," "trans and homosexual negativities," and "sexism." The suit also says McLaughlin was forced to take courses on diversity and identities and privilege and race — all designed to "condition" her to "be woke."
Soon she transferred to the University of Mississippi, the suit says.
Local lawyer appears to mock McLaughlin
KFOR's report on the controversy included an interview with Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyer Jacqui Ford, who seemed decidedly unsympathetic to McLaughlin.
"What I see is that her feelings are hurt, and she's filing a lawsuit because her feelings are hurt," Ford told the station in what one might characterize as a condescending tone.
Image source: KFOR-TV video screenshot
Interestingly, a profile on Ford published at the hight of last summer's rioting indicated she's a member of the "OKC Protestors Lawyers Coalition, to serve as legal representatives for peaceful protestors arrested in Oklahoma City while exercising their First Amendment rights to free assembly and free speech."
Ford also said in the KFOR interview that "when [McLaughlin is] creating a situation that is a hostile environment for some of her other teammates, then the coaches must act to the benefit of her team."
The attorney added to the station that "from what I can tell she hasn't suffered any damages. She was given options to remove herself from the situation, so she's not damaged. I think that's gonna be a huge obstacle for her and for her lawyers to overcome."
OU told the station it's aware of the suit but will not comment on pending litigation. KFOR also said it contacted McLaughlin's attorney for comment but hadn't received a response.