Former University of Oklahoma volleyball player sues over exclusion from team because of political views

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Kylee McLaughlin, a former volleyball player at the University of Oklahoma, is suing her coaches and the school after she alleged that she was stigmatized as a racist and eventually forbidden from the rest of the team due to her conservative political views.

McLaughlin is suing volleyball coach Lindsey Gray-Walton, as well as assistant coach Kyle Walton, according to The Oklahoman. She’s expected to sue for a minimum of $75,000 for each of the five complaints, one of which is an infringement on her First Amendment rights, per the report.

The newspaper reported that the case is currently pending in Oklahoma City federal court.

McLaughlin claims that she was “frozen out” of the Oklahoma volleyball program last summer because her beliefs weren’t the same as her teammates and coaches. For the 2020-21 season, McLaughlin says that she was forced into taking a redshirt year, which led to her transferring out to the University of Mississippi for her final year of eligibility as a student-athlete.

McLaughlin’s attorney and the university both declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to the newspaper. 

In the court documents, McLaughlin said that the team was forced to watch the 2016 documentary “13th” which is about the incarceration of Black people in the United States. The lawsuit states that a team discussion in June of 2020 “took some shots” at former President Donald Trump and “compared it with beatings of Blacks in the 1960s.”

The following day, McLaughlin responded to social media news surrounding the discussion over the University of Texas and people advocating to replace “The Eyes of Texas” school spirit song. She responded with laughing emojis and McLaughlin said that she didn’t think the song was racist. Texas and Oklahoma volleyball players responded to her on the social media post and Gray-Walton forced her to delete the post and apologize to Texas women’s volleyball coaches and players, the lawsuit stated.

McLaughlin’s teammates and coaches felt that she was racist and homophobic, according to the lawsuit.

“Although (McLaughlin) 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 stated.

McLaughlin was told that she didn’t fit the culture at Oklahoma and coaches gave her three options. 

She was told that she could either transfer or continue on scholarship as a typical student, not an athlete. The other option was to take a redshirt year, keep her scholarship, and practice separately from the rest of the team, the lawsuit stated. She had to take more than 10 hours of online diversity and inclusion training for a “Growth Plan,” McLaughlin said.

In the lawsuit, McLaughin said that the school and coaches violated her freedom of speech. She accused her coaches of “intentionally inflicting emotional distress by alleging that she was a racist and homophobe.”

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