MONROE (Middlesex) —Two high school football referees walked off the field Friday night after several teen players kneeled during the national anthem, MyCentralJersey.com reported.

“What they are doing with this kneeling and everything, they have the right do to that, but the National Anthem has nothing to do with them kneeling," one of the refs told MyCentralJersey after the Monroe home game against Colts Neck.

Several players with Monroe High School have been kneeling all season, following similar demonstrations by professional players in the National Football League, who have been kneeling since Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, started the practice last year in order to protest excessive and deadly force by police against black men.

The demonstrations have become a national political issue, with President Donald Trump calling on the NFL to prevent their players from demonstrating during the national anthem. Critics of the players say kneeling disrespects the nation and the armed forces, while players and their supporters argue that kneeling is a respectful way to draw attention to their cause.

American Legion posts across the country, including one in Rahway, have protested against the NFL by burning their jerseys. Many football fans say they are not watching NFL games in response to the demonstrations. And Vice President Mike Pence made a show of walking out of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and 49ers earlier this month after being asked to do so by Trump if players kneeled.

Earlier in the high school season, school administrators in Monroe said they would not prevent their players from taking a knee before games. Students in public schools have constitutionally protected free-speech rights that students in private and parochial schools do not enjoy.

“The coach met with me and the principal and since it is their constitutional right to have a non-violent protest they’re allowed to do it,” Monroe Athletic Director Greg Beyer told New Jersey 101.5. “It’s the same thing as if somebody doesn’t stand for the pledge during the Pledge of Allegiance at the school.”

MyCentralJersey.com reported Saturday that Monroe officials may file New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association complaints against the father-and-son ref team for walking off the field.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.