Just days after the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) confirmed that its volleyball referees do not have the jurisdiction to disqualify athletes who kneel for the national anthem, it has suspended a referee who walked out on a match when he saw an athlete kneel.
Jim Saddler, an Air Force veteran and volleyball official of over 20 years, calmly walked out before a match for which he was supposed to serve as a line judge on October 9th.
“What they did just upset me so badly that I just could not stay there,” Saddler told the IndyStar. “(But) I know it’s her constitutional right to do what she wants to do. And it wasn’t fair to the other girls who were standing and respecting the flag.”
He added that as someone who had many friends lose their lives fighting for the US, he has little tolerance for actions that he interprets as disrespectful.
As Saddler, 67, walked out, North Central High School assistant athletic director Andy Elkins allegedly shouted “You have a contract!” and Sadler handed him back the $20 he had been paid.
Now a couple weeks removed from the event, he regrets his decision. “In the Air Force, you have a duty, and you do it,” Saddler said on Thursday. “The same with sporting events. I guess I went AWOL. I feel bad about it.”
A few days after the match, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox revoked Saddler’s license for the rest of this school year, and through next year’s winter sports season.
The IHSAA previously said that it will remain “silent” on anthem protests, but hopes that athletes will be respectful in whatever they choose to do.
Cox confirmed the suspension to IndyStar but declined to comment further.
Saddler had expected punishment, but not to this severity.
“After I thought about it, you know, sometimes it takes you a little time to sit down and think about stuff and what you did,” he said. “And after I thought about it, I would never ever do that again. I would never break a contract.”