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.
The pair stood on the field with their hands on their hearts while the anthem was played, then left immediately.
‘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 to mycentraljersey.com, who is in his 18th season of officiating scholastic football games.
Ernie and Anthony Lunardelli said they told officials from Colts Neck and Monroe high schools before the game they wouldn’t work if players protested. Four players from Monroe (pictured) kneeled in protest
‘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.’
His son, who attended Monroe and played on the football team in 2008 saw the act as a sign of disrespect.
‘They’ve got a right to protest and so do we,’ Anthony Lunardelli said.
‘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.’
Neither provided an alternative method for players to protest peacefully before leaving the field.
They were replaced by two officials in training after four Monroe players took a knee on their home field.
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.
‘We have to follow what is in the policy,’ Beyer added.
‘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.’
According to Ernie, Beyer had to recruit two parents to help work the chains for the game that did not have any incident.
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.
Anthony added that school officials planned to file a complaint with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
‘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.
‘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.’