Two New Jersey high school football officials walked off the field Friday night after players knelt during the national anthem. Ernie Lunardelli, 54, and his son, Anthony, 27, stood for the anthem and left the field after seeing players on Monroe High School football team kneeling prior to a Sept. 28 game at New Brunswick, NJ.com reported.
The officials’ spots were filled by junior cadet officials at the game, Ernie Lunardelli told NJ.com.
“I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces,” he said.
“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,” the veteran football official said.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
Anthony Lunardelli, who graduated from Monroe in 2008, said he thought kneeling during the anthem was disrespectful.
“They’ve got a right to protest and so do we,” he told MyCentralNewJersey.com. “That (taking a knee during the anthem) is not how I was brought up, and that’s not how I was raised. I’m not criticizing their right. That’s just my viewpoint.”
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association assistant director Jack DuBois told NJ.com that the situation was unheard of.
“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,” DuBois said.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate to comment about what transpired without knowing exactly what happened and why. I can tell you this will be investigated by both the Central Jersey chapter and our office.”
Ernie Lunardelli, who is in his 18th season of officiating games, told NJ.com he expected to be ostracized because of his actions.
“I have a lawyer already set up because they’re not going to run me out of town,” Ernie said. “They’re going to try to blackball me. I know what’s going to happen.”
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. After all, if the students have a right to emulate professionals, officials should have the right to protest it.