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Coach David KelleyMorro Bay Pirates Football / Facebook

MORRO BAY, California, November 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Members of a California high school football team are rallying to vouch for their former coach, who has been sacked for his coaching position after an outburst deemed “insensitive to the LGBTQ community.”

San Luis Coastal Unified School District removed Morro Bay High School head varsity football coach David Kelley on Tuesday, The Tribune reports, following what Principal Kyle Pruitt called an “unfortunate, and unacceptable verbal interaction that was insensitive to the LGBTQ community between a coach/teacher and a student athlete on our campus.”

On October 24, Kelley got mad at a player who was procrastinating in a locker room and told him to “stop looking at me like a homosexual and get the [expletive] to practice,” according to senior varsity player Rocky Brebes. The student added it was the only instance he had ever witnessed Kelley using “homosexual” as a pejorative.

Brebes also described a meeting with Kelley, Pruitt, and the team, in which Kelley claimed he was being replaced for the team’s poor performance under his leadership, rather than his comments.

San Luis Coastal’s Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Kimberly McGrath told the Tribune she couldn’t “comment further into specifics of personnel matters,” when asked to confirm which was the motive for the move. Kelley has not yet been fired from his position as a history teacher.

The incident “made me sick to my stomach,” Kelley told the Tribune. He has reportedly apologized to players and their families.

“I love Coach Kelley, and so does every single person on our varsity team,” Brebes said on Kelley’s behalf. “He became family, and he always had our back. Whenever we were hungry, he would always get us food. If we ever needed clothes, he would always find us some clothes. Whenever we needed help in school because of bad grades or any of that, he would always find us support.”

“He is suffering, as are his boys,” Jim Pugh, the father of another player, added. “He was being disrespected by a young man who thinks telling an adult to [expletive] off is acceptable. He is a good man who has nurtured and loved all of those boys.” The Tribune reports it spoke to other players who are defending the coach.

Despite such testimonials to Kelley’s character, Pruitt claimed the incident “violated” the school’s “safe environment for kids.”

San Luis Coastal Superintendent Eric Prater claimed that, rather than a simple momentary lapse, the incident was a sign of the “distance we still must travel in order to accomplish our goals” of “more inclusive environments,” and that Kelley’s apology was likely just the “beginning” of his efforts to “reconcile” with the community.