Any player or coach for a high school sports team in the Diocese of Camden who doesn't "demonstrate appropriate respect" during the national anthem will be subject to a two-game suspension, the diocese said in a note sent to school administrators and coaches earlier this month.
Players and coaches would be subject to dismissal from the team for "subsequent offenses," the note said. It is dated Sept. 2.
The Camden diocese oversees Catholic high schools such as Camden Catholic, Paul VI, Gloucester Catholic, St. Joseph, Holy Spirit and Wildwood Catholic.
Holy Cross is overseen by the Diocese of Trenton.
Private schools such as Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine Prep are not overseen by the Diocese of Camden.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia "has not issued any policy like the one that the Diocese of Camden issued about the national anthem and school sporting events," spokesman Ken Gavin said in an e-mail. "We've not had any issues arise in Archdiocesan schools regarding this matter."
Camden Catholic football coach Nick Strom and athletic director Derrick Levine, and Gloucester Catholic athletic dirctor Pat Murphy declined to comment.
Bishop Eustace assistant athletic director Frank DelRossi said the administration sent a letter to all coaches requiring that all players stand for the anthem.
St. Augustine, which is not part of diocese, has no policy on the anthem. But athletic dirctor Mike Rizzo said there is an "expectation" that athletes will stand during the anthem.
Paul VI football coach Phil Brunozzi had his team practice lining up for the national anthem twice in the week before Friday night's opener.
"Helmet under left arm. Stand straight. Chest out. Eyes ahead," Brunozzi said. "We think it's important, and our kids do too."
Diocese of Camden school superintendent Mary P. Boyle sent the note to administrators in the wake of the controversy over the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not to stand during the national anthem at exhibition games.
On Saturday, players and coaches from Woodrow Wilson High School, a public school in Camden, took a knee during the national anthem before the season opener vs. Highland.
Here is the full text of Boyle's letter to administrators:
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.
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