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H.S. football players exercise right to kneel during anthem — so sheriff's deputies exercise a right of their own

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"They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do."

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High school football players in Louisiana exercised their First Amendment right to take a knee during the national anthem before a game, and now sheriff's deputies are exercising their right not to work as voluntary security detail at those very events.

Images posted to social media and aired by WVUE-TV show the players at Bonnabel High School in Kenner kneeling along the sideline during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before their game last weekend. The team was apparently taking their lead from NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has repeatedly refused to stand, prompting a national debate over the issue. Celebrities, other professional athletes and even President Barack Obama have since weighed in.

But now players in this small town are dealing with blowback as a result of their actions.

Image source: WVUE-TV

“I was a bit taken aback at first," Isaac Joseph, superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public Schools, said, adding that the players "have a right" to kneel during the anthem.

“Legally we do not have any right to punish or offer any sanctions against the team or team members,” he noted.

Meanwhile, a number of Jefferson Parish deputies who disagree with the players' actions are choosing to take their services elsewhere.

“My understanding is we’ve had some officers that said they will not work the Bonnabel High football games,” Sheriff Newell Normand said.

“I understand why, in light of Colin Kaepernick's comments, specifically when he says, ‘Cops are getting paid leave for killing people.’ That's not right, that's not right by anyone's standards," Normand added. "The fact of the matter is we risk our lives each and every day for the safety and security of our constituency throughout this country.”

Normandy said the deputies act as a "voluntary detail," so they are technically not required to work the games. However, Normand said he has plenty of other deputies able and willing to work the games, so the school won't go unprotected during games.

“The same way that the Bonnabel players have every right to kneel during the national anthem, my officers have every right not to volunteer to work the Bonnabel High School football game," Normand explained, saying he can fully understand how his officers feel.

“When they’re on the clock and they’re working for me, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, because that’s what they’re hired to do. That’s not what this is — this is a voluntary detail where they volunteer to work this extra detail separate and apart from what they’re hired to do.”

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