The act of kneeling during the national anthem, initiated by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a silent protest against police brutality, has sparked heated debates and divisive reactions across the United States.

As people from all walks of life either join in or criticize the movement, a high school football game in Monroe offered a new dimension to the controversy.

Monroe High School’s football team, inspired by Kaepernick’s protest, took a knee during the national anthem before a game.

This action, however, was met with a counter-protest by the game’s referees. Ernie Lunardelli, 54, and Anthony Lunardelli, 27, both football officials, walked off the field in response. They felt that they couldn’t stand by and watch the high schoolers “disrespect” America in such a manner.

This story showcases the multifaceted nature of the anthem protests. On one side are those like Kaepernick and the Monroe football players, who see kneeling as a peaceful way to draw attention to a pressing societal issue. They aim to use their platform to shed light on matters they deem critical, leveraging the visibility and resonance of the national anthem to make their point.

On the other side are individuals like the Lunardellis. To them, the flag and the anthem represent the ideals, sacrifices, and values of America. “I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces,” Ernie told, illustrating this viewpoint.

He felt strongly about the act, asserting that while everyone has a right to protest, the pregame ceremony, in his opinion, should be all about football and patriotism.

Ernie further stated, “Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with.” His statement is a clear representation of a sizable portion of Americans who feel that any form of protest during the anthem is tantamount to disrespecting the nation.

However, this incident at Monroe High School, and the broader national debate, raises a series of questions: Can a symbol or anthem have multiple interpretations? Is it possible that both parties are, in their way, standing up for what they believe is right?

The repercussions of the Lunardellis’ decision to leave the field are still unfolding.

Ernie challenges the game’s legitimacy, saying, “That game should not count now because they did not have the right personnel on the field.”

He believes that the two cadets who replaced them were not officially trained or carded, potentially jeopardizing the game’s integrity.

Furthermore, Ernie has enlisted legal support, suggesting that the ripple effects of the protest and counter-protest may extend far beyond the football field.

In essence, the Monroe High School football game encapsulates the broader national debate on anthem protests in microcosm. While the act of kneeling during the anthem began as a specific protest against police brutality, its meaning has evolved and expanded as various groups have engaged with, adopted, or opposed it.

At the heart of this issue is the balance between freedom of speech and perceived respect for national symbols. As this story from Monroe High School demonstrates, the interpretation of an act of protest can be as varied as the number of people who witness it.

As the debate continues, it’s essential for individuals on both sides to engage in constructive dialogues, understanding the underlying issues and emotions that drive such actions, and working collaboratively towards a more harmonious society.


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