A former Illinois State University assistant football coach has filed a lawsuit against the team's head coach and the school's former athletic director over claims that his First Amendment rights were violated after he replaced a Black Lives Matter poster that had been placed on his door with another poster.
The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that, in September 2020, Kurt Beathard, the former offensive coordinator for ISU, was dismissed by head coach Brock Spack and was later fired by then-athletic director Larry Lyons, according to the Chicago Tribune.
It also claims First Amendment retaliation and viewpoint discrimination against Beathard and asserts that he was terminated because he failed to "toe the party line regarding Black Lives Matter."
Beathard said that a Black Lives Matter poster was placed on his door while he was on leave following the death of his wife, who had succumb to breast cancer. Upon his return, Beathard replaced the poster with one that read, "All Lives Matter to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," the suit notes.
The new poster remained on the door for less than two weeks. According to the suit, Beathard took down the poster before he was fired but after Spack asked that he remove it.
The suit claims that Beathard suffered from mental and emotional distress, as well as economic damages due to the loss of income resulting from his firing.
Doug Churdar, Beathard’s attorney, said in a press release that Beathard should not have been disciplined for expressing his views in a public university.
"It’s come to this. If you put the government’s message on your door, you keep your job," Churdar said. "If you replace it with your own message, you’re fired. That’s exactly what happened."
The complaint also claimed that Spack at one point said the Black Lives Matter movement on ISU's campus was "freaking nuts."
And in another instance, Lyons allegedly held a Zoom meeting with student-athletes to encourage unity, at which point he said that "All Redbirds Lives Matter," likely a reference to the slogan, "All Lives Matter." The school's mascot is a redbird.
Lyons' comments did not go over well and he was later forced to apologize. He retired from the university about a month later in October 2020.