Metro Weekly

Florida football coach who called gays ‘wrong and disgusting’ says he’ll quit rather than stop being homophobic

Johnnie Saunders was criticized by his community after decrying gay youth on Facebook

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Photo: Muyuan Ma / Unsplash

A football coach in Florida who called being gay “absolutely wrong and mentally disgusting” says he’ll quit rather than stop being homophobic.

Johnnie Saunders, founder of Eustis Junior Panthers in Lake County, Florida, claims he was trying to start a conversation when he took to Facebook to slam gay people, WESH2 reports.

In a since-deleted post, he wrote: “If we continue too [sic] remain silent as our young boys turn to [slur] then what kind of men are we!”

The slur, which hasn’t been reported by media, was apparently a common one used against gay men.

In a second post he wrote: “God made no mistakes when he created us. No matter how much they break our hearts, they do us wrong or even betray us, we continue to love females and females only as our lovers, wives and sexual companions until the very day that we die. Anything else is of this world and not of God. It may be accepted but it will be always wrong even bye personal choice.”

“No man can substitute a female,” he continued. “It’s Absolutely Wrong and mentally disgusting [to] even think about it.”

Saunders’ posts were noticed by members of the community, with one person commenting to say they were “disappointed in you with this post.”

“Whatever it is you are TRYING to say, could have been said much better than this,” they wrote. “In fact, it could have and should have been said NOT on social media. You supposed to be a stand up dude in the community, you want people to respect you and feel like you have the good of everyone at the front of all you do, but you DONT!”

Saunders reportedly deleted the posts after hearing that a former player and his family were upset with the comments, the Daily Commercial reports.

While he deleted the posts to avoid further hurt, he told media that he was happy with the attention his homophobia received.

Speaking to WESH2, Saunders said it was “time we stop brushing these issue [sic] under the rug, these kids are out here experimenting wildly without any guidance and nobody want to touch it.”

After his interviews were published, Saunders took to Facebook again to say that he might quit coaching rather than embrace gay people.

He complained about not being able to “pray out loud” and being “silenced cause the truth sometimes offends others.”

“If being a coach means I can’t tell parents sometimes the problems they blame on others really were created right from their very own home,” he wrote. “I think it’s time for me too proudly head for the locker room and hang up this volunteer whistle. I got thirty years plus of teaching young boys and girls about this harsh game called Life.”

In a statement to WESH2, Danielle Olivani, president of Lake County Pride and Lake Youth Alliance, called Saunders posts “careless, harmful and above all prejudice.”

“In today’s society, the youth in our community face enough harsh criticisms and bigotry with both the school system and the community as a whole,” Olivani said. “By making these remarks publicly known Mr. Saunders subjects any LGBTQ youth in our community to backlash and opens the doorway to direct discriminatory acts.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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