The Catholic Diocese of Camden, N.J., told its schools in an early September letter that any player who opted not to stand for the national anthem would be subject to suspension.
According to the letter from Superintendent of Schools Mary P. Boyle, dated Sept. 2, “failure to demonstrate appropriate respect will result in suspension from play (2 games) or dismissal from the team for subsequent offenses.”
The letter adds that the “best approach (to dealing with the issue) 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.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to protest police brutality and oppression of African-Americans by sitting for the anthem during a preseason game. He has been followed by other professional athletes.
Woodrow Wilson players and coaches kneeled for the national anthem before Saturday’s 13-7 loss to Highland. Coach Preston Brown said he made the decision to kneel to bring attention to social injustices and economic disparities.
Brown let his team know his intention before the game and did not ask them to join him but almost all of the coaches and players did. On Sunday, the Camden City School District released a statement saying they supported the players and coaches’ First Amendment right to kneel during the anthem.
Following is the text of the diocese’s letter, released by Michael Walsh, director of communications for the diocese:
“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.”
In an email, Walsh said students and parents are advised via policy handbooks that school administrations have the authority to take action when students’ behavior is harmful to the good order of the school or its religous mission.
Walsh said visiting teams will be governed by the policies of those schools.
Camden is one of five dioceses in the state. The others are Trenton, Metuchen, Newark and Paterson.
Bishop Ahr athletic director Michael Wolfthal said his school had not received a directive from the Metuchen Diocese, but in light of recent events he would help develop one for his school.
“I think what has evolved is the protests have become more about the people protesting as opposed to why they are protesting,” said Wolfthal. “I have not had any issues. We had a remembrance ceremony yesterday here for 9/11.
“We are a socially conscious school. But we have not had any kind of protest. … I will get together with my coaches and administration and we’ll determine how we’re going to deal with anybody who chooses to protest. We are not going to condone any type of protest.”