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New Jersey football refs walk off field over athlete protests

October 30, 2017 / Athletic AdministrationCoachingFootball
UPDATE: The two referees in the story below have been banned from working any more games for the remainder of the football season, according to NJ.com. One of the referees, Ernie Lunardelli, has hired an attorney and is unsure how he proceed.


A pair of New Jersey high school football referees walked off the field prior to a game last week after players from one team chose to kneel during the National Anthem.

The New Jersey Football Officials Association planned to hold an emergency meeting this week to determine what punishment, if any, would be handed to Ernie Lunardelli and his son, Anthony. According to MyCentralJersey.com, Ernie told coaches more than an hour before a game between Colts Neck and Monroe high schools that they would walk off the field if any players protested during the Anthem.

Four Monroe players took a knee during the Anthem, while Ernie and Anthony stood on the field with their hands over their hearts. When the Anthem was over, the two referees left, while a pair of officials in training — originally assigned to work the chains — took their place.

From MyCentralJersey.com:

“Anybody that disrespects the flag, in my eyes, it’s not right,” said Ernie Lunardelli, a veteran scholastic football official in his 18th season. “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. 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.”

Anthony Lunardelli said Monroe school officials told him they plan 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.”

The New Jersey Football Officials Association also said it plans to examine comments made from Ernie’s Facebook account. In a January posting, his account commented, “Thanks for f***ing up the country!! Back to the zoo!!!” in response to a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama. Ernie said his account was hacked.

Earlier this month, an Indiana high school volleyball referee walked off the court after players protested during the Anthem. The Indiana High School Athletic Association suspended him for 18 months, saying he violated his contract.

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