IHSAA officials threatened to disqualify volleyball players for not respecting flag, anthem

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — IHSAA officials told high school volleyball players they would be disqualified if they didn’t show respect to the flag and national anthem.

It happened before Lawrence Central and Cathedral played the first game of a tournament at Lawrence North on Saturday, according to the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township.

No one ended up kneeling, but officials are not allowed to make such comments to players regarding the anthem, according to the district.

Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox released the following statement regarding the incident:

“The IHSAA is silent on the topic of behaviors exhibited by participants at an athletic contest during the presentation of the National Anthem.  The IHSAA by-laws provide support in Rules 3 and 8 with respect to conduct and the authority vested with the Principal to enforce such accepted behaviors.

It is the sincere desire of the IHSAA that all participants at an education based athletic event demonstrate proper respect and attention during the presentation of our National Anthem while respecting the rights of individual freedoms of expression.”

Cox added that his office has been contact with the officials involved, saying “our conversations have been direct and focused on the duties expected of our assigned officials.”

“I don’t think any of us expected a game official to make those kinds of comments as it falls outside their games duties and responsibilities,” said Jason Wille, an IHSAA representative. “But I can assure you that once we heard of what was said, our office was in contact with the official involved.”

The MSD of Lawrence Township issued the statement below:

The situation that occurred on Saturday morning prior to the Lawrence Central/Cathedral Sectional Volleyball game was the result of comments made around possible disqualification by officials assigned to the tournament by the IHSAA. Comments to players were around student behavior and respect, including for the flag and national anthem. Administration from both the host site, Lawrence North High School, and team affected, Lawrence Central High School, have communicated their concerns to the IHSAA.

We are deeply concerned about a lack of unclear guidelines for officials. No events transpired involving behavior on the part of MSD of Lawrence Township student athletes, coaches, or fans. The MSD of Lawrence Township respects fully individuals right to freedom of expression that does not interfere or infringe on the rights of others.

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