Crew coach fired over online comments

Lila Chesser and Natalie Gordon

Long-term Jackson-Reed boys head crew coach Joe McMullin’s contract was discontinued.

During the summer following the boys 2022 crew season, McMullin made a comment on an Instagram post about a young athlete from Dunbar High School who had recently passed away. Shortly after, Jackson-Reed Crew Boosters announced it would not be renewing McMullin’s contract. 

“The comment made by one of our coaches in the wake of this terrible accident was insensitive and harmful, and does not represent the longstanding values of our rowers, our team, or our community,” the Jackson-Reed Crew Boosters wrote in a statement. 

“The administration had to make a decision on what the best step moving forward is,” said Chris Rickard, head of the crew program at Jackson-Reed and the girls varsity head coach.

McMullin issued an apology to the deceased athlete’s family community via the Washington Post. “My actions are not a reflection of my former team, my family, or who I want to be,” he said. McMullin did not respond to The Beacon’s request for further comment. Principal Sah Brown was quoted in a Washington Post, “Disrespectful comments from adults working with children do not reflect our core values or the high standard of excellence we are building at Jackson-Reed. Therefore, after consulting with members of the team’s Board, we have taken appropriate action to address this matter. The actions taken will allow the program to move forward, and we are confident that the team will continue progressing.”

Last year, the Jackson-Reed boys varsity team had a highly successful season. Senior co-captains Milo Epstein and Tomás Foxley believe that McMullin was instrumental in the program’s success. 

For the first time ever, the team won the Stotesbury Cup, and qualified for the Henley Regatta in England where they placed in the top eight. The team also won the Scholastic Rowing Association of America competition which they accomplished only once before in 2019.

Both Epstein and Foxley detailed McMullin’s strict, hands-on coaching style.

“Joe is good at what he does, which is pushing athletes to be the strongest possible versions of themselves,” Foxley said, highlighting the values that McMullin instilled in the team. 

“He really taught us to respect our equipment, our location, and those around us,” Foxley continued.

Foxley added that without the rigor McMullin demanded, the team may not have been able to compete at elite national competitions against crew programs with more funding. 

Rickard is confident the program will continue to flourish, given the replacement of McMullin by former assistant coach Justin Nesheiwat. Nesheiwat was unable to offer a quote by the publication date. He has already been coaching Jackson-Reed crew for three years. “[McMullin] was someone who had a really big impact and was very close to these kids,” Rickard said, “but we know Justin, we know he’s going to do a good job.” 

Epstein agreed. “Obviously Joe pushed us really hard, but just because we have a different coach doesn’t mean the standard of athletic ability has changed. The change in coaching staff doesn’t affect that. We still have the same mentality.”

Rickard said that like any other year, their goal is to improve on the year before. •