Players kneeling leads to official walkout

On Oct. 9 the girls volleyball team hosted a match against Franklin Central High School. Before the game began, everyone rose to their feet and put their hand over their heart for the
national anthem — except for one.

Sophomore Kayman Howard played on the JV team for the 2017 season and was not on the court, she was just a spectator supporting the varsity team. Howard made the decision to kneel during the national anthem.

In response to Howard’s action of kneeling during the anthem, one of the referees paid to work the match decided to walk out and abandon his job as a referee. Howard had been inspired by watching TV and seeing professional athletes also stand up for their beliefs.

“I was thinking like not just the football people are trying to say something, I wanted to show respect and that it is more than just them who know this is happening,” Howard said, “That my age group knows we’re not ignoring it, we see it, I see it,

I’m going to make it known I know what’s going on.”
Before leaving the gym, the referee, Jim Saddler, walked over to the sideline to talk to the head coach of the panthers, Rolando Urquizo.

“The ref came and he looked really angry. He said ‘I am going to leave.’ I said ‘why’ because I didn’t even see anybody kneeling, I was paying attention to the flag,” Urquizo said.
Saddler shared his experience.

“I just got really mad and I said ‘I can’t stay here. I just can’t do it,’” Saddler said.

Saddler continued to talk to Urquizo with some very strong words, dropping his line judge flag and walking out of the gymnasium.

“I can’t really stop what the kids are doing because I am not the principal, I am not the supervisor, I’m just a coach,” Urquizo said.

As Saddler started toward the doors he was stopped by the assistant athletic director Andy Elkins.

“Mr. Elkins went and talked to him. They were talking because he is paid to stay here for that time when varsity was playing,” Urquizo said. “I don’t think they were arguing about it. He had a contract and what I saw is that he basically threw $20 bill back at Mr. Elkins, and said here is your $20, and left.”

Elkins has no comment regarding the incident.

After Saddler left, a new line judge was needed to take his place.

“Kayman actually ended up line judging the game instead of him,” junior Ramona Banner said. The game went on as planned just with a missing official.

“I believe that he had a job that he failed to uphold his contract which is wrong but his reaction is appropriate,” senior Madeline Jones said.

Many other players continue to believe that the ref handled the situation unprofessionally.

“It wasn’t right for him to leave because he broke a contract. He was getting paid to be there, and as an IHSAA ref, it is his job to be there. I understand why he was upset because he’s a veteran, but he should not have left,” junior Katherine Ranft said.

Jim Saddler is a veteran, he was a Presidential Flight Attendant on Air Force One.

“Being in the military, I saw it as outrageous and I got really angry because when you are in the military you are told to do certain things without being asked,” Saddler said.
Urquizo has also served.

“He said that he was a veteran and in the army and I was in the army, too, and I understand that code but at the same time
I think we are older and we should see this better, from a better perspective,” Urquizo said. Others thought the same.

“I understand he’s a veteran but we all have rights and Kayman has a right to stand up for what she believes in and he had a right to stand I don’t know why he felt so entitled to have to walk out,” Banner said.

Some of the players and friends of Howard, who were at the match, agree with how she handled the situation and have nothing but respect for her.

“I think she has a right to kneel it was not a disrespectful action. She was still facing the flag and being quiet and respectful like the rest of us but she was on one knee,” Banner said.
Others agreed.

“I respect her decision as long as she knows what she is kneeling for and has a purpose. She has the right to do what she want,” Ranft said.
Saddler was contacted by IHSAA saying he is suspended for 18 months and can not officially referee any match until winter sports start up in 2018.

“IHSAA says they can’t force anyone to stand up or sit down for the anthem, I was his job to ref not to see who was standing or sitting,” Urquizo said.

After the incident, Saddler took matters into his own hands and contacted the media to apologize for his actions.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t stay back to line judge and I do regret leaving,” Saddler said.

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