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Former ISU assistant football coach sues, claims he was fired over 'All Lives Matter' sign

Brock Spack talking to players during a practice
Emily Bollinger
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WGLT
ISU football coach Brock Spack isn't commenting on a lawsuit filed against him and former ISU athletics director Larry Lyons by former assistant coach Kurt Beathard.

A former Illinois State University assistant football coach is suing two of his ex-bosses, claiming they violated his First Amendment rights to free speech.

Kurt Beathard claims in the federal lawsuit he was terminated from his job as offensive coordinator and given a "bogus and made up" position in September of last year after he removed from his office door a sign that said "Black Lives Matter" and replaced it with a sign that read "All Lives Matter to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

'All Lives Matter' sign
U.S. District Court, Peoria
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Kurt Beathard claims he was removed as ISU's offensive coordinator for replacing a 'Black Lives Matter' sign with this sign posted on his office door.

This came during the height of the racial justice movement following the deaths of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of police. Beathard called Black Lives Matter a group founded by Marxists that "divides people by skin color and supports violence and property destruction," according to the lawsuit.

Beathard's attorney, Doug Churdar, contends head football coach Brock Spack and then-ISU athletics director Larry Lyons caved to push back from players and weren't up front with him about the demotion.

“It was shortly after some of the players boycotted practice over this poster that coach Spack decided all of the sudden that he didn’t like the direction of the offense,” Churdar said.

Churdar said Beathard's performance as coach was never been discussed before that. According to the complaint, Spack had previously told Beathard "Black Lives Matter" is "freaking nuts." The lawsuit notes Lyons got heat for saying "All Redbird Lives Matter" in a video call with student-athletes, coaches and administrators last year. That comment prompted some student-athletes to boycott.

Churdar said the university's attempt to force Beathard out of a job shows the ISU administration is intolerant of views it doesn't agree with.

“They threw him under the bus,” he said. “It may be that they agreed with him and it may be that they didn’t, but the bottom line is the easiest thing for them to do to quell the uprising was to suppress the freedom of expression of a public employee.”

ISU athletics said it doesn't comment on pending litigation. The university is not named in the complaint. Churdar said he legally could not get monetary damages from the institution.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Peoria. No hearing date has been set.

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