In Kenner, Louisiana, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department has issued a statement suggesting that some of its deputies may refuse to work football games for Alfred Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School after the majority of the players on the school’s football team took a knee during a playing of the National Anthem before a recent game.
A spectator took a picture which showed the vast majority of the team taking a knee on the sidelines as the anthem played.
School officials were shocked by the protest, which originated during the 2016 NFL season when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem. At some point following his initial protest, the quarterback chose to take a knee instead of sitting down.
“I was a bit taken aback at first. Keep in mind, I know what is happening nationally with some of the protests that’s happening across the country,” Jefferson Parish Public Schools Superintendent Isaac Joseph said.
However, Joseph admits that students are well within their constitutional rights to stand or kneel for the flag.
“They do have a right, and legally we do not have any right to punish or offer any sanctions against the team or team members,” Joseph said.
One of the football players posted a photo on social media with the caption, “It [sp] a shame that my teammates really my brother can’t express themselves without being labeled as the bad guy.”
But after the students’ protest, a few deputies complained that they took great offense to the display.
“My understanding is, we’ve had some officers that said they will not work the Bonnabel High football games,” Sheriff Newell Normand said. “I understand why, in light of Colin Kaepernick’s comments, specifically when he says, ‘Cops are getting paid leave for killing people.’ That’s not right, that’s not right by anyone’s standards. The fact of the matter is we risk our lives each and every day for the safety and security of our constituency throughout this country.”
It seems that now a few officers are refusing to protect parents, students, and staff during Bonnabel football games as punishment for the players exercising their constitutional rights.
“That is a voluntary detail, so I suspect I will have some officers refuse to work the Bonnabel High School games,” Normand said. “The same way that the Bonnabel players have every right to kneel during the national anthem, my officers have every right not to volunteer to work the Bonnabel high school football game.”
However, there is some good news. Normand said that there are still an adequate amount of deputies willing to work the extra duty detail and he will ensure that the school games have protection. But, he stated that he would not compel any of his deputies to work the detail if they feel it would disrespect their jobs.
“That fuels the disappointment in my officers when they see this happen, and I can fully understand their disappointment and frustration,” Normand said. “When they’re on the clock and they’re working for me, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, because that’s what they’re hired to do. That’s not what this is – this is a voluntary detail where they volunteer to work this extra detail separate and apart from what they’re hired to do.”
Normand also mentioned that there are times when his deputies will turn down security details for concerts or other events if they have sharp disagreements with the artist or message.
On a personal note, as a alumni of Bonnabel High, I feel a great swell of personal pride in what these players are doing. Whether or not we as Americans agree with protest during the National Anthem, it should be acknowledged that those who choose to do so risk their reputations, their future careers, and even their personal safety for what they are standing up for.
Hopefully, all future Bonnabel games will be played in safe environments, and the students involved will not suffer any backlash for doing something that the generations of military and the Founding Fathers of their country fought to ensure they had a right to do.