High School Basketball Coach Suspended for Praying with Team

By Mark Judge | March 28, 2016 | 10:39am EDT
Espanola Valley basketball coach Richard Martinez (screen capture)

A high school basketball coach in Espanola, New Mexico has been suspended for praying with his team - as well as other, unspecified reasons, according to the school superintendent.

Espanola Valley High's boys' basketball coach Richard Martinez told KOTA Action 7 News he was recently suspended for praying with his team before a game in March. The team won the game, the 5A Division championship.

On March 23, EPS Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez confirmed that Martinez was placed on administrative leave after she had received complaints regarding the video. Gutierrez said she expects her review of the coach to take a few weeks at most. She also told KOAT that the prayer isn't the only reason Martinez is suspended, but would not go into further details.

Gutierrez told KOAT that video of the prayer, which surfaced online, shows Martinez leading his team in the Lord's Prayer and then initiating a moment of silence. Gutierrez said teachers and faculty members are not allowed to lead students in prayer. Gutierrez said she would have had zero issue with the video if students had initiated the prayer.

At a public board meeting, following the suspension, many pledged their support to Martinez.

"He's a good man, and he's good for this town," one man said.

"You won't find a better coach in Espanola Valley," another woman said.

Martinez's niece, Krista Martinez, was at the meeting and said her uncle should be reinstated.

"I think it's outrageous that they suspended him for that," Martinez said. "Espanola is such a religious place and such a religious community."

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