With an ongoing shortage of game officials and referees for youth and high school sports, some states are starting to take action.
In February, the latest version of a bill making its way through the Ohio House of Representatives seeks to make assaulting a referee before, during or after a game a first-degree misdemeanor, according to Cincinnati.com. The punishment? A fine of $1,500 and 40 hours of community service.
“Protecting officials in Ohio is protecting athletic opportunities for the youth in Ohio, who are at risk of having their games cancelled due to a shortage of officials, through no fault of their own,” Ben Ferree of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, told the House Criminal Justice Committee in late February, according to the website.
In Wisconsin, a bill in the state legislature would make harassing or intimidating a sports official with intent to influence a Class A misdemeanor. Currently, it is a Class B forfeiture if an individual harasses, intimidates, strikes, shoves or kicks another individual, or if the individual engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits harassing or intimidating behavior with no legitimate purpose. The bill also proposes a penalty of up to 40 hours of community service and potential participation in anger management courses or abusive behavior intervention.
In March, the Kentucky House of Representatives moved a bill to the Senate that would make it a Class A misdemeanor to intimidate sports officials with the intention to change a call. The bill defines threats as promises to injure the official and/or his or her property, or financially harm them.
"The officials numbers are dropping at an all-time rate,” Rep. David Hale told Kentucky Public Radio. “I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen if we don’t put some teeth behind this, if we don’t put some really severe potential penalties behind someone that would do that.”