Referees Leave Field After NJ High Schoolers Kneel During Anthem
Colts Neck High School was visiting Monroe High School on Friday night. During the pre-game playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, players knelt, following the protests that began with Colin Kaepernick and have spread across athletes, teams, and sports at many levels.
After seeing the players kneel, two referees, Ernie Lunardelli, 54, and his son, Anthony Lunardelli, 27, left the field and refused to return to officiate the game.
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.
Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with. 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.
What hurts the most is these kids don’t even know why they’re kneeling. I just don’t understand why this is happening, especially at the high school level. If you’re not happy with being in America, go somewhere else. It’s that simple.
If I may just break down parts of Lunardelli's argument...here I go. Read if you want, skip to after the picture to read more official things.
- I understand how casual fans, people not paying close attention, people who only read headlines may still be unsure what the protestors are actually protesting, but for someone who is involved with football (like an official), how do they still think this is about "protesting the anthem" or the "armed forces"? Kaepernick has repeatedly said this is not about "the troops", this is not about "the flag", this is not about "the anthem" - it's simply about flaws that he sees in society, and his method of drawing attention and attempting to start a conversation and spark a change.
- Lunardelli literally says it's okay for him to protest, but not these kids. Saying that walking off the field was his protest is so absurdly hypocritical, I can't believe he doesn't understand that.
- How does Lunardelli know whether or not the high schoolers know what the protest is about? He doesn't know himself, so what does he think they think?
There is nothing in New Jersey statue, code or case law that addresses kneeling during the national anthem at football games. Players from Woodrow Wilson in Camden, Barringer in Newark and Penns Grove in Salem County knelt last season, and there were no reports of suspensions or other punishments after players knelt.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has no rules regarding the national anthem.
The Lunardellis were removed from their duties as officials for a game the next day between Spotswood and Raritan, but a decision for their status for the rest of the season has not been made.
UPDATE: I just want to clarify something after a few comments I've received. I'm not bashing the refs for walking out - I support everyone's right to protest because I'm a believer in the Constitution. I'm just saying that for Lunardelli to believe his protest is acceptable while that of the atheletes is not is hypocritical. and that's what I have an issue with.
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