Let there be no mistake about the policy of the Diocese of Camden when it comes to any protest during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner at its school's football games.

Following a protest during the playing of the National Anthem Saturday at a high school football game in Camden County, the Diocese has issued a letter to its Catholic high schools stating its policy of "appropriate respect" for the anthem.

Any player of coach who violates the policy could be suspended for two games.

On Saturday, during the playing of the anthem before a public school game between Woodrow Wilson High School and Highland Regional, nearly all the players and coaches on the Woodrow Wilson team knelt protesting racial oppression and social injustice.

There haven't been any protests during the playing of the anthem at any local South Jersey schools in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland or Ocean County, Catholic or public, so far this school year.

Anthem protests by NFL players such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick have generated considerable national controversy lately.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, Diocese spokesman Michael Walsh said Monday the policy was sent to schools as a precautionary measure. St. Josephs of Hammonton, Wildwood Catholic and Holy Spirit High School in Absecon are all members of the diocese. Here is a portion of the diocese's policy letter...

“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 ... demonstrate appropriate respect, will result in suspension from play (2 games) or dismissal from the team for subsequent offenses.”

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