A father and son high school football officiating duo from New Jersey walked off the job Friday night after four players on one team took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
“Anybody that disrespects the flag, in my eyes, it’s not right,” said Ernie Lunardelli (via MyCentralJersey.com), whose son Anthony also walked off the field ahead of a game between Monroe and Colts Neck in Monroe Township.
“They’ve got a right to protest and so do we,” Anthony Lunardelli said, referring to the four Monroe players who took a knee. The four also took a knee during a game on Sept. 28, according to MyCentralJersey.com.
“That (taking a knee during the anthem) is not how I was brought up and that’s not how I was raised,” added the younger Lunardelli, who graduated from Monroe in 2008. “I’m not criticizing their right. That’s just my viewpoint.”
Monroe school officials, meanwhile, are staying out of the public debate, refusing to comment on the Lunardellis decision to walk off the field. Monroe High School Athletics Director Greg Beyer, however, did comment after the players’ actions on Sept. 28 to say the students have a right to protest peacefully.
“We have to follow what is in the policy,” Beyer told MyCentralJersey.com, “and pretty much the policy is if a kid doesn’t want to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, that’s his constitutional right, so we have to handle it (taking a knee during the playing of the anthem) the same exact way.”
It remains unclear if the Lunardellis, who were replaced by two trainees in the game that Colts Neck won, 18-13, will be face any punitive action from either the school or the association that oversees the referees. According to the Associated Press, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association declined to comment.
However, Anthony Lunardelli is convinced he and his father will face some type of penalty.
“They are trying to get them to not give us any more games, basically saying we put the players’ safety in danger, but we didn’t,” Anthony Lunardelli said (via MyCentralJersey.com) of the NJSIAA. “They obviously had enough officials to do the game. I’m not really worried about (being sanctioned). If I don’t ref again, it won’t be the end of the world.”