The ongoing saga over Black high school football players in New Jersey kneeling during the national anthem reached a boiling point when two referees were removed after the discovery of racist comments they made online.
Reports indicate the latest incident involves two referees who walked off the field in protest at Monroe High School this past Friday night in Middlesex County. The refs, Ernie Lunardelli, 54, and his son, Anthony Lunardelli, 27, walked off the field after players kneeled during the national anthem.
The two said they left because they didn’t like people disrespecting America or the armed forces and claimed that what the players are protesting “has nothing to do with the national anthem.”
In September, Black student athletes on several New Jersey high school and college football teams protested during the national anthem. Questions still linger about whether the students can be punished for following the actions of their gridiron heroes in the NFL.
There are no codes or laws for public school students about kneeling during the national anthem. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said that it’s up to schools to make their own rules.
Ernie Lunardelli reportedly said that he would walk off the field if he saw players kneeling. He said that he would take legal action if he and his son were forced out of their jobs. Officials reported that they never had a conversation with the referees about walking off the job.
However, things took a startling turn over the weekend after a racist comment Ernie Lunardelli made on Facebook back in January surfaced. The post was a picture of former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama the day before the inauguration of Donald Trump.
“Thanks for [expletive] up the country!! Back to the zoo,” Ernie Lunardelli allegedly posted. He denied making the comment online, saying that someone hacked him but could not recall when.
Officials said Monday that the father-son referees will not work any more games for the remainder of the season. Along with leaving while they were on duty, the two were removed for putting the players in danger for threats.
“We have to follow what is in the policy,” Monroe High School Athletics Director Greg Beyer said in one interview, “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.”