High school coach blasts ref who left after anthem protests in New Jersey

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A referee's striped jersey and a whistle

MONROE, N.J. (AP) — A high school football coach is criticizing a referee who refused to officiate a game after members of the opposing team knelt during the national anthem.

Referees Ernie Lunardelli and his son, Anthony, say they told officials from Colts Neck and Monroe high schools before Friday night’s game they would walk off the field if any players protested. They say they respect players’ right to protest but believe such acts are disrespectful.

Colts Neck Coach Darian Barnes told NJ.com that Ernie Lunardelli yelled at Monroe players after some knelt, accusations Lunardelli denies.

Barnes agrees referees and players should be able to express their views but says Lunardelli was “a coward” to yell at the teenage players.

Some NFL players have been kneeling to protest social injustices, particularly against African-Americans.