Once again radio host Dori Monson finds himself embroiled in controversy. This time it’s with a local school district saying his views make him the wrong fit for a job coaching girls basketball.
Monson has a top-rated KIRO-FM afternoon talk show with listeners in that advertiser-friendly range adults 25-54. But plenty of others find it offensive.
Even for those who don’t listen to his show, his tweets on Seattle policies on homelessness, or the liberal politics he sees all around, go out into internet land.
Last year, Monson was accused of being transphobic in a tweet. The Seahawks yanked him from the team’s pre- and postgame radio shows. He disappeared from his show for 2½ weeks, returning by reading a 600-word apology and undergoing corporate sensitivity training.
Now, Monson says he thought he was going to be coaching the varsity girls basketball team this season at Shorewood High School in Shoreline. He’s spent 26 years in coaching, he says, a passion.
But it all turned from basketball to Dori’s Tweets, Part 2 — and Monson is out. “Am I the ultimate cancel culture victim? Yes, I am,” he says.
Emma Gillespie, attorney for the Shoreline School District, said in an email that before sending Monson’s coaching job application to the School Board for approval, “District administration learned of additional information that is inconsistent with the District’s policies and support of all staff, students, and coaches, regardless of race, creed, sex, or gender.”
She cited a tweet from Monson in March after he had interviewed for his show a former Shorewood High student upset that the school had to change its Thunderbirds mascot. The Legislature passed a bill this year banning Native American mascots at schools.
The example from Gillespie: “3/15/21 Radio Show Broadcast: Interview with SWHS student @ SWHS Mascot: Discussion @HB 1356 requiring the Shorewood HS Macot be changed. During the interview Mr. Monson states that this is: ‘Silly and meaningless’; ‘nonsense’; calls to people to stand up against it; ‘Takes away from society’; ‘Waste of $’; ‘all out of control.’”
But while Gillespie says the board had not approved Monson for the position, Monson says a contract job was offered to him and then rescinded. He says that on Oct. 1, Joann Fukuma, Shorewood’s athletic director, texted him: “Hi coach, Welcome.” Monson says he began assembling a coaching staff, as the basketball season starts Nov. 15.
Monson has lawyered up.
His attorney, Brad Keller, sent a letter to the district Oct. 11 asking it to reconsider its position “to avoid entangling the District in a protracted, costly, public (and likely embarrassing) lawsuit.”
Keller wrote that, on Oct. 1, “The situation was one of classic contract formation: Offer + Acceptance = Binding Contract,” adding that on Oct. 6, Monson “was wrongfully terminated five days after in violation of his First Amendment free speech rights.”
Fukuma referred comments for this story to Curtis Campbell, the district’s public information officer. He emailed, “Due to potential litigation, we have no comment at this time.”
Monson says he’s not looking for a payout. The contract for coaching would have been $6,589 to $8,124 a year, “not even minimum wage” when you add up all the hours in coaching, he says.
“My goal is to get the job. I was unfairly fired,” he says.
And, in deciding to fight for the coaching job, he goes on: “Who’s next? School secretaries? Bus drivers? I have to stand up to this madness.”
For eight years ending in 2017, Monson was the varsity girls head basketball coach at the other Shoreline High School: Shorecrest.
The team won the 2016 Class 2A state championship, and his fellow coaches named him Coach of the Year in that division.
“Winning state was, other than family stuff, probably the most exhilarating life experience I’ve had,” Monson told The Seattle Times in 2017. He ended coaching, saying that with his show and the Seahawks job, he was already averaging a 75-hour work week.
With the Seahawks gone from his schedule, Monson’s time opened up, and he heard the Shorewood coaching position had opened up.
Monson says he filled out an application and took part in two Zoom meetings.
One of those meetings, included a small group of parents, basketball players and some community members, as well as district staff.
Erik Evans, whose three children attended schools in the district, was on that interview panel. He’s a partner in a Seattle-based sporting events and tournaments company.
He says about interviewing Monson, “There was nothing earthshaking about it. Nothing popped out.”
Then, he says, came the district’s decision that Monson was out of contention, “but no one is saying anything.”
But in the world of high school athletics, word gets around.
Because he was traveling, Evans’ wife, Stephanie, showed up Oct. 19 to the weekly school board meeting. She and two others had questions about Monson not coaching.
Evans said she had written to Susana Reyes, the superintendent, as well the school board members, asking what had happened but had not heard back.
What she could learn about Monson not getting the coaching job was, she said, “through the grapevine,” adding, “Our schools are beginning to focus more on being politically correct than doing what’s best for our children, in my opinion.”
Two others spoke during the public comment period in support of Monson. Board members did not respond.
When word spread that Monson seemed headed for coaching at Shorewood, there was pushback.
On the private Facebook page “Shoreline School District Families and Staff Community,” Mary Lauch, a secretary in the school district, posted, “I’m embarrassed that Shorewood hired him as a coach given his history of transphobic comments, among other things. I guess winning is the only thing.”
In an interview, Lauch said she and her husband Robert knew Dori and Suzanne Monson years ago when both couples attended a church in Ballard.
“They’re nice people. He was perfectly pleasant. I don’t know what happened with him on his show. He turned hard right,” Lauch says.
In her email, Gillespie, the lawyer for the district, cited two other Monson tweets that ended his being considered as a coach:
“7/30/19: @dorinmonson: Tweet in response to the ACLU 7/29/19 Tweet: ‘ @Transgender girls in sports ‘Let’s make THIS loud and clear. Biological girls have the right to participate in sports against other biological girls’ (Still posted on site)
“This was in response to an ACLU tweet on 7/29/19: ‘Let’s make this loud and clear; Transgender people have the right to participate in sports consistent with who we are.’”
“5/3/20: @dorimonson: Tweet: Serious question. Why is it racist to call Covid-19 ‘Asian flu’ – but perfectly acceptable to call the murder hornets ‘Asian giant hornets’? The tweet was in response to a CNN news post @ ‘Asian giant hornets have been spotted in the United States…’”
Monson says, “I totally get that my show is polarizing.”
But, he says, “When I’m coaching, I coach. My girls would have no idea what my political or social views are if they didn’t listen to my radio show.”