by Mary Margaret Olohan
A spokeswoman for Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt expressed support Friday for former University of Oklahoma volleyball player Kylee McLaughlin, who has accused the university of violating her First Amendment rights by excluding her from her volleyball team over her conservative views.
“Governor Stitt fully supports every individual’s right to freedom of speech and thought,” the governor’s communications director Carly Atchison told the Daily Caller News Foundation Friday afternoon. “It’s shameful that young people on college campuses, and in today’s world even K-12 classrooms, who dare dissent from the left’s agenda are being punished.”
McLaughlin is suing the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, volunteer assistant coach Kyle Walton, and OU volleyball head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton for a minimum of $75,000, according to the lawsuit, saying that the school discriminated against her for expressing beliefs that “did not fit the culture” at OU. She formerly served as both a team captain and first team All-Big 12 player in 2018 and 2019, according to OU Daily.
“Although Plaintiff supports equality, social justice, and finds racism despicable, she disagreed with the WOKE culture and critical race theory advocated and practiced by two of her coaches who are the Defendants in this action,” the lawsuit said. Her case is currently pending in an Oklahoma City federal court.
Gray-Walton did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the DCNF, but OU Athletics told the DCNF in a statement, “[it’s] not the practice of the university to comment on pending litigation. OU is aware of the suit and will respond as appropriate.”
The lawsuit said that Gray-Walton required the team to watch and discuss the Netflix documentary “13th” last June, a film on racism and slavery which McLaughlin said was “slanted left” and criticized former President Donald Trump.
“Pressed for more input Plaintiff offered comments directly from the movie that Black incarceration was higher than other racial groups while representing a smaller overall percentage of the population,” the lawsuit said. “She stated that they were incarcerated mostly for marijuana and drugs.”
At least one of McLaughlin’s teammates found her comment racist, the lawsuit said, and McLaughlin was told she must attend another team discussion on race.
McLaughlin also was criticized by her teammates and coaches for retweeting a tweet about OU’s rival, the University of Texas, which was discussing dropping their theme song “The Eyes of Texas.” McLaughlin quote tweeted an EPSN tweet about the matter with a skull and crossbones emoji and a laughing clown emoji.
“Plaintiff was well-aware of the intense rivalry between O.U. and the University of Texas in athletics and had competed against the University of Texas Women’s Volleyball team on a number of occasions when she posted the emojis,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff’s opinion and belief was that the ‘Eyes of Texas’ is not a racist song and she was expressing her belief that it would be inappropriate to get rid of it at the University of Texas because it is a strong tradition. ”
Gray-Walton urged McLaughlin to delete the tweet and set up a phone call for the next morning, the lawsuit said, during which the coach told McLaughlin, “I can’t save you when you get into the real world when you leave here.” The coach also lectured McLaughlin about her white privilege, ordered her to take down the tweet, and had her apologize to UT’s players and head coach in a phone call, according to the lawsuit.
She said that her teammates and coaches branded her as a racist and homophobe after these incidents, OU Daily reported, and McLaughlin was given the choice to either transfer as a regular student or redshirt for the rest of the season and practice on her own. She chose to redshirt, but said that she was never given separate practices, according to the lawsuit, and transferred to Ole Miss.
“These events accusing Plaintiff of being racist and homophobic caused Plaintiff to experience great emotional distress, sleeplessness, and anxiety that greatly concerned Plaintiff’s parents, and Plaintiff’s mother attempted to discuss the situation with Defendant Gray-Walton who refused to accept her mother’s calls or texts,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff’s mother attempted to call O.U.’s PRO’s, left a voicemail message and did not receive a return call.”
McLaughlin’s legal representation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Kylee McLaughlin” by ou volleyball.