As the controversy over athletes standing or kneeling/sitting during the national anthem spreads, a New Jersey Catholic diocese is making no bones about what it expects from its high school sports teams.
The Diocese of Camden declared that any player or coach who doesn't "demonstrate appropriate respect" during the national anthem is subject to a two-game suspension -- and they're subject to dismissal from the team for "subsequent offenses," Philly.com reported.
The ruling was outlined in a note sent to school administrators and coaches dated Sept. 2, the outlet said.
Camden was already dealt a salvo when players and coaches from Woodrow Wilson -- a public high school -- took a knee during the national anthem before its Saturday game against Highland.
The squad's head coach, Preston Brown, told his team before the game about what he planned to do; most of his assistants and all but two players did the same. The team is predominantly black and Hispanic, Philly.com said.
"I still love America. I still love our military," Brown told the outlet. "But this was our way of saying that things have to change in our country. There's oppression, there's social injustice, and these kids live it."
"There were things that I saw, things that I experienced as an African-American student-athlete in the South," Brown added. "I've seen what's happened to people that look like me."
Woodrow Wilson seniors Edwin Lopez and Tyler Parsons most definitely stood out by standing.
Lopez, a defensive back and a Rutgers recruit, told Philly.com that his teammates and coaches "have the right to do what they want" but that isn't where he is.
"I've always stood for the national anthem, and I wasn't going to let a little incident in the NFL change that," Lopez added. "That's not me."
Here's a photo of Lopez (#1) standing amid his kneeling teammates on Saturday:
As for Catholic high schools in Camden, some already have protocols in place.
Paul VI football coach Phil Brunozzi told Philly.com that his squad practiced lining up for the national anthem twice before its season opener: “Helmet under left arm. Stand straight. Chest out. Eyes ahead. We think it’s important, and our kids do, too.”
Here's the full text of the letter from Diocese of Camden school superintendent Mary P. Boyle, Philly.com reported:
In light of the recent controversy regarding the NFL player’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem, I seek to clarify the position of the Office of Catholic Schools. I ask that this be communicated to those listed above.
Our schools are founded on the teaching of respect and honor; respect and honor for God, country and duly appointed authority.
It is expected that our administration and coaches as well as our athletes will show respect during prayer, pledges and the playing or singing of the National Anthem.
The best approach is helping our young people understand that blood was sacrificed so that we all can enjoy the gifts of our faith and our country.
However, let me be clear. We are not public institutions and free speech in all of its demonstrations, including protests, is not a guaranteed right.
Failure to do demonstrate appropriate respect will result in suspension from play (2 games) or dismissal from the team for subsequent offenses.