Two high school referees took great offense when players from Monroe High School took a page out of Colin Kaepernick’s playbook and protested during the national anthem. Those refs were so offended, in fact, that they staged their own protest by walking away from the game that they were supposed to be working.
NJ.com is reporting that officials Ernie Lunardelli and his son Anthony Lunardelli left the field directly after the national anthem after seeing players on the Monroe High School bench kneeling. Per the report, the father-son ref duo were replaced by junior cadet officials on the chain gang.
The elder Lunardelli, who’s 54-years old, spoke with Matthew Stanmyre of NJ.com to explain his reasoning:
“I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces,” Ernie Lunardelli 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.”
“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.”
That’s a hard-line stance from the referee and his son and it’s quite obvious that he takes the national anthem very seriously and personally. The merits of a protest during the national anthem can and have been debated ad-naseum ever since Kaepernick took a knee in the NFL, but this seems to be an issue that Lunardelli doesn’t seem to want to drop. Not only did he and his son walk away from the game, but Lunardelli does not feel the results of Friday Night’s high school game should be official. He cites the fact that the chain gang members who stepped up to replace him and his son weren’t officially trained or certified referees.
“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.”
The Monroe High School did not comment on the situation, per Stanmyre. He also reports that the official assigner from the state, Carmine Picardo, declined to talk about the situation. It seems as if ramifications for the referee protest are up in the air.