The continual protests against the national anthem by NFL players is inspiring other protests and offending more individuals.
According to NJ Advance Media, players for the Monroe High School football team knelt during the national anthem at Friday’s game. This prompted two high school referees to walk off the field after the anthem.
The two officials, Ernie Lunardelli and his son Anthony Lundardelli said they were disgusted when they saw players kneeling during the national anthem. Ernie Lunardelli told reporters, “I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces. What they’re protesting has nothing to do with the national anthem and I’m against it, so I decided to protest for them kneeling and that’s what I did.”
This boycott by the referees forced junior cadet officials to fill their positions, something Lunardelli claims makes the game unofficial. “That game should not count now because they did not have the right personnel on the field. These kids weren’t officially carded and trained, so they’re putting the kids in jeopardy, I’m not.”
He claims to have informed Thomas Paulikas, official assigner for the Greater Middlesex Conference, weeks ago of his intent to walk away should a protest occur. Paulikas has failed to comment on the matter.
Lunardelli says protesting the national anthem is wrong regardless of who’s doing it. “Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with,” he said. “That’s my protest. I don’t care if it’s a baby, if it’s an 80-year-old man, anybody. I don’t care. Any race, color, I don’t care who it is. It’s not the way I was brought up and it pisses me off that people are doing that.”
Assistant Director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, Jack DuBois, says he’s never seen an official walk out of a game: “I’ve been involved in high school athletics for 48 years and I’ve never seen or heard of an official leaving a game in any sport.”
Sports Illustrated reports that another incident occurred earlier this month when students from Lansing Catholic High School said they intended to take a knee during a Friday game. The school promptly benched them for the game.
Despite criticism from the players and others in the community, the school refused to apologize, stating that further attempts at protests would see the offenders “receive consequences.”
The school’s president sent out a letter explaining the decision: “After much prayer and reflection; in consultation with our Board of Trustees, with the Superintendent of the Diocese, with administrators at other Catholic schools, and with law enforcement, we will continue to hold our student-athletes to the expectation that they stand for our National Anthem. Any student-athlete who chooses not to stand will receive consequences. As always, this will be handled with Christian Charity, with the goal of growth in virtue.”
It’s unclear at this time what the repercussion will be, if any, for Lunardelli or his son. Lunardelli has stated that he’s ready for the coming backlash. “I have a lawyer already set up because they’re not going to run me out of town,” he said. “They’re going to try to blackball me. I know what’s going to happen.”
Two referees walked off the field after players refused to stand for the national anthem. Did they do the right thing?
Everyone has the right to protest. If high school students feel they need to take a knee during the anthem at their games, for whatever reason, that’s their right. But as in the case with the students being benched at the Catholic school or for the New Jersey students playing an unofficial game, they need to be prepared for consequences.
While the players are free to protest and express their opinions, private schools and referees are also free to express how they feel and protest as they see fit.