Apparently, it’s not just coaches and players being impacted by the ongoing national anthem protests in sports.
On Friday, two high school football referees walked off the field in their own form of protest after New Jersey’s Monroe High School players took a knee during the national anthem, Raw Story reports.
The officials were identified as Ernie Lunardelli, 54, and his son, Anthony Lunardelli, 27. The pair stood for the anthem and then exited the field upon seeing athletes kneeling. They never returned, and their spots were taken by junior cadet officials.
“I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces,” Ernie Lunardelli reportedly told NJ Advance Media Saturday afternoon. “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.”
He said he gave fair warning to the officials assigner for the Greater Middlesex Conference that he would walk off the field if players protested “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with,” Lunardelli 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.”
Lunardelli also insisted that the football game should be considered unofficial because the cadets who refereed were not equipped with the proper training or certification required.
“That game should not count now because they did not have the right personnel on the field,” Lunardelli said. “These kids weren’t officially carded and trained, so they’re putting the kids in jeopardy, I’m not.”
Now, Lunardelli said he plans to take legal action as he suspects he and his son will be blacklisted for their bold decision.
“I have a lawyer already set up because they’re not going to run me out of town,” Lunardelli said. “They’re going to try to blackball me. I know what’s going to happen.”
Lunardelli’s own words indicate that he shares the same narrow-minded view of the protests as the likes of President Donald Trump and some NFL coaches and owners. He also made the assumption that the students who are kneeling don’t know what they are doing it for.
“What hurts the most is these kids don’t even know why they’re kneeling,” he said. “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.”
Unfortunately, his logic is far from accurate. It’s not “that simple.” First of all, the national anthem protests are not about being unhappy with being in America.
Ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began this movement to draw awareness to police brutality and racial injustice — two very important social issues that need to be strongly addressed as racial tensions are running high and people of color continue to die at the hands of overzealous police officers.
While these issues are certainly more prominent in some areas in the U.S. compared to others, New Jersey is not exempt from grappling with them. Earlier this month, a video went viral of a New Jersey officer attacking two teenage sisters, grabbing one of them violently by her hair.
In another incident involving New Jersey teens, Maplewood cops were filmed kicking and pepper spraying a group of youths who were coming from a fireworks show back in 2016.
With these encounters occurring in their home state among their own peers, it is more than likely that these young athletes know exactly what they are kneeling for and why.
If Lunardelli cares more about the national anthem than actual American people who are being mistreated day in and day out, then he should really re-evaluate his priorities and, perhaps, find a new job.
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