Most of the Bonnabel High School football team kneeled in silent and peaceful protest during the national anthem at last weekend's game, which angered some Jefferson Parish deputies to the point that they are refusing to work future games in Kenner, Louisiana (video below).
"I was a bit taken aback at first," Jefferson Parish Public Schools Superintendent Isaac Joseph told WVUE. "Keep in mind, I know what is happening nationally with some of the protests that's happening across the country."
A picture of the protest was posted on Facebook by a player who wrote: "It's a shame that my teammates, really my brothers, can’t express themselves without being labeled as the bad guy."
"They do have a right, and legally we do not have any right to punish or offer any sanctions against the team or the team members," Joseph added.
Sheriff Newell Normand told the news station:
My understanding is, we’ve had some officers that have said that they will not work the Bonnabel High football games ... I can understand why, in light of Colin Kaepernick's comments, specifically where 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 that we risk our lives each and every day for the safety and security of our constituency throughout this country.
As a matter of record, police departments across the country routinely place officers on paid administrative leave after they kill a civilian.
Tim Dees, a retired officer and criminal justice professor, noted on Quora:
Officers involved in deadly force situations are taken out of their regular assignment for multiple reasons. These events are highly traumatic, even when the officer has done everything right. Immediately returning to duty like TV cops do would likely result in disaster. The cop needs some recovery time, and possibly to be cleared for duty by a mental health professional.
If the investigation does reveal misconduct on the part of the officer, the agency wouldn't want him or her working in their regular assignment. Placing the officer on administrative leave puts the situation on hold until all the facts are known.
"That is a voluntary detail, so I suspect that I will have some officers that will refuse to work Bonnabel High School games," Normand told WVUE. "The same way that the Bonnabel High School 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."
It's not clear how the work of paid adult police officers is equivalent to unpaid minors expressing their free speech.
Normand added: "That's what fuels the disappointment in my officers when they see this happen, and I can fully understand their disappointment and frustration."
Normand also told the news station that his deputies will refuse to work concerts or events if they don't approve of the speech that is taking place.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled numerous times that unpopular speech is protected free speech.
WVUE also reported that the Bonnabel High School Alumni Association took action against the team by canceling a week of activities; one company has withdrawn its donations for the activities.