Attorney Says Associations Are Within Their Rights to Suspend Referees Who Walk Out Over Anthem Protests

Nov 10, 2017

Carla Varriale, long-time sports lawyer at Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert & Varriale, LLP, recently told Sports Litigation Alert that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) was well within its rights when it recently warned officials not to walk out over anthem protests.
“Simply put, public schools cannot ‘force’ patriotism on students, that has been the law since the U.S. Supreme Court decided the issue in 1943, said Varriale, who serves as outside counsel for the New York Mets. “Officials such as referees also have rights but when he or she walks out and refuses to officiate in a protest of a protest, they may correctly be subject to suspension, depending on the circumstances.”
The November 1 email, reportedly sent out by the OHSAA, read as follows:
“This message is being sent to all OHSAA officials in regards to the recent trend of players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem. As an OHSAA official, you are there to officiate. It is not within the purview of officials to make judgments on the personal, social, or political opinions of any player or coach. It is neither proper nor warranted for officials to express their pleasure or displeasure with how players act during the national anthem.
“As OHSAA officials, it is our expectation that you stand and face the flag during the national anthem. Athletes and coaches have their expectations set by their school. These expectations set by the school are not within the official’s purview.”
Tim Stried, the OHSAA’s director of communications, told that the email was sent out “because of recent incidents in Indiana and New Jersey in which officials walked out of games because they were so upset by seeing athletes kneeling during the national anthem.”


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