2 Referees Refuse To Work High School Football Game After Players Protest National Anthem

MONROE, N.J. (CBS/AP) — A father and son who were to officiate a high school football game Friday night walked off the field after members of one team knelt during the national anthem.

Ernie and Anthony Lunardelli said they told officials from Colts Neck and Monroe high schools before the game they would not work if any players protested. They were replaced by two officials in training after four Monroe players took a knee on their home field.

The two officials told mycentraljersey.com they respect the players’ right to protest, but they believe such acts are disrespectful. The pair stood on the field with their hands on their hearts while the anthem was played, then left immediately.

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“What they are doing with this kneeling and everything, they have the right do to that, but the national anthem has nothing to do with them kneeling,” said Ernie Lunardelli, who is in his 18th season of officiating scholastic football games. “The flag has got nothing to do with why they are protesting. If they want to protest, let them protest, but don’t disrespect our country, the flag and the Armed Forces.”

Ernie Lunardelli was scheduled to work the game as the head linesman, while his son was to be a line judge.

The newspaper reported that Monroe High School Athletic Director Greg Beyer declined comment on the officials’ decision not to work the game. He said it is school district policy to permit players to protest peacefully.

Officials who oversee the referees declined to speculate on what action, if any, would be taken against the Lunardellis if either school files a complaint over their refusal to work the game.

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However, Ernie Lunardelli is facing heat for racially insensitive Facebook posts after walking off the field. Lunardelli says his Facebook account was hacked, and he denies writing multiple posts saying Michelle and Barack Obama should go “back to the zoo.”

The trend of kneeling during the national anthem started in the NFL, where some players kneel to protest social injustices, particularly against African-Americans.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

 

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