Catholic Diocese officials of Camden, N.J., issued an edict to its schools through a letter that indicated any player or staffer who "failed to demonstrate appropriate respect" (opted not to stand) for the national anthem would be subjected to suspension. "Let me be clear. We are not public institutions and free speech in all of its demonstrations, including protests, is not a guaranteed right," stated the superintendent in the letter.
The letter added 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."
According to the letter from Superintendent of Schools Mary Boyle, failing to show respect during games "will result in suspension from two games or dismissal from the team for subsequent offenses."
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to protest what he said is police brutality, racial injustice and oppression of African-Americans by sitting for the anthem during a preseason game. He has been followed by some other professional athletes.
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."
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 religious mission.
Walsh said visiting teams will be governed by the policies of those schools, reports Religion News Service.
Camden is one of five dioceses in New Jersey; the others are Trenton, Metuchen, Newark and Paterson.