Jim Saddler
Jim Saddler worked five years for President Ronald Reagan aboard Air Force One. Photo – Jim Saddler

(10-25-17) – 67 year old Jim Saddler is a retired Presidential Flight Attendant on Air Force One, since his retirement the Carmel, Indiana native has been an active Indiana High Athletic Association sports official, including volleyball.

On October 9th Saddler was contracted to be a line judge at a North Central (Indianapolis) girls varsity volleyball game. During the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner he noticed a North Central player taking a knee and also noticed several fans sitting during the anthem as well.

That is when Saddler decided he had seen enough of what was  taking place and that was disrespecting the country he served.  Saddler decided to walk away from his spot on the floor and walked over to the scorer’s table, turned in his flag and then he informed the North Central coach  why he was leaving.

According to several accounts of what happened next, Saddler pulled out his billfold and gave the Assistant AD a $20 bill for his contracted fee he had been paid and left the gym for home.

Several days later Saddler would receive a letter from IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox informing him that his license was being revoked.

Jim Saddler would tell the Indy Star after his meeting with Cox:

“What they did just upset me so badly that I just could not stay there. (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. 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. And after I thought about it, I would never ever do that again. I would never break a contract.”

Bobby Cox, the long-time IHSAA Commissioner, has never avoided  a tough situation and always hits it head-on.  He also acts quickly and does not let the situation get out of control.

Below is a Statement From Commissioner Cox that was sent to SSN after we requested some clarification on the situation:

Recently the IHSAA suspended a licensed official for failure to meet contractual obligations during a contest. The incident was reported to the IHSAA and subsequently discussed among the staff. A consistent penalty was administered to this independent contractor as previously determined over several unacceptable behaviors displayed from other licensed officials.

The official in question in this most recent incident chose to request a meeting with the Commissioner to discuss the matter. This meeting was granted. The official pleaded his case to the Commissioner. The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes. At the end of the meeting, the Commissioner reaffirmed the penalty. That penalty,  which has been misreported in the media, is a suspension of the official’s licensure with the IHSAA through the 2018-19 volleyball season. Compared to the calendar, that suspension will conclude on November 3, 2018.

In the letter of suspension sent to the official, it clearly states that the official has an opportunity to appeal this determination to the IHSAA Review Committee.  Rather than seek an appeal before the Committee, this official chose to contact the media to plead his case. The theme of the article centered on the official’s service as a member of the United States Air Force. The IHSAA congratulates and appreciates this individual for his service to our country. This was not why he was suspended. This official walked out of a gymnasium, functioning as an independent contractor and not a service veteran, immediately prior to a contest between two member schools.  His stated rationale was he could not work because a student athlete chose to kneel during the National Anthem. Immediately after the Anthem, the licensed official spoke to the Assistant Athletic Director and informed him he would not fulfill his contract.

Rules 3 and 8 of the IHSAA by-laws provides direct support to the member school and their Principal to provide direction and discipline, if necessary, to students representing the school in interscholastic athletics. Rule 14 provides the Commissioner the authority to license and suspend licenses at his discretion.

In this particular case, I felt the contest official placed two member schools and every other student athlete in a compromised position. Due to the acts of one student, this official disservices every other student and all parents and fans in attendance due to his reaction to not work.  The suspension is congruent with similar incidents committed by other licensed officials.  Typically, the next season is suspended from the offending official.  Unfortunately, the IHSAA has suspended officials for a variety of behaviors detrimental to the discipline of officiating.  Also, this gentleman is not the first official that also has served in our armed forces to be suspended. Continued acts of non compliance by licensed officials, US veterans or not will be handled in a similar manner.

The situation that was started when San Francisco’s QB Colin Kapernick first took a knee last year and has caused the NFL some recent issues has now spilled over to high school athletics.