A suburban mom is alleging gender discrimination after she says she was fired as the coach of her son’s youth football team and told that she was “being too emotional and not manly enough.”
Stephania Kirkland has been coaching the Joliet Steelers tiny mite team for nearly ten weeks. She said the head of the Joliet Steelers Youth Football and Cheer Organization recently called her and told her she was going to have to sit in the stands from now on.
“I'm not coaching today because I was told by George Garcia, the head of the league, that I wasn't ‘manly enough’ and that I was ‘too emotional’ to be a football coach,” Kirkland said.
Stephanie said that she asked to be kept in charge for the team’s final two games, but her requests were rebuffed.
“I basically begged him to let me finish coaching because we only had two weeks left,” Kirkland said. “I was heartbroken. I loved the boys and I love being a part of their success...I just wanted to coach the boys for the last few games
A truck-driving mom to four boys, Stephanie says that her goal on the field was to teach the team all about the sport she’s most passionate about.
“I was able to see they were progressing, and to be a part of that,” she said.
After she was fired, Kirkland’s 6-year-old son Dakhari was forced to turn in his equipment and was told he was no longer on the team.
“I'm more upset now than anything because he has taken away something from my son,” Kirkland said. “My son has absolutely nothing to do with it. He is just trying to play football with his best friend and have some fun. You know they had one game left.”
Versharol Collins’ 7-year-old son Jhaydyn played for the Joliet Steelers and said that Kirkland was a good coach to the kids.
“She kept it held down on the field. She kept the boys under control, and they looked up to her,” she said.
Collins says that Jhaydyn quit the team after Kirkland was fired.
“My son wasn't even thrilled to play on this team once they took her off,” she said, “He was like 'Coach Stephanie isn’t out there coaching us, I don’t want to be out there playing.’”
The president of Chicagoland Pop Warner says the matter is now under investigation, but says that the organization has emails and letters from parents and coaches, as well as texts from Kirkland herself, that contradict her claims about how the situation unfolded.