Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Assaulting a ref may draw higher penalty in Missouri


— Unruly fans or athletes could face stiffer penalties if they attack a sports official under a bill being considered in the Missouri House.

The legislation would create a new crime for those who assault a referee or coach at any sporting event in the state, from youth leagues to professional games.

Increased penalties would not mean a loss of yardage. An official’s attacker would face up to a $1,000 fine or one year in jail.

Currently, some instances of third-degree assault are punishable with a $300 fine.

“I don’t think anyone should be allowed to physically contact a sports official,” said Rep. Steve Hodges, a co-sponsor of the legislation, which has yet to receive a committee hearing.

More than 20 states have increased penalties for assaulting a sports official. Most of those states have similar criminal penalties as Missouri’s proposal. Oregon allows officials to sue for their injuries, and Minnesota allows its state high school sports agency to ban an attacker from games for a year.

Hodges, D-East Prairie, has been officiating football for 40 years. During that time, he has never been harmed. But he knows several officials who have been attacked by upset spectators.

Even though he has not been attacked, Hodges has received his share of verbal abuse. After one football game, a drunken fan approached him and started making threats.

“I turned, I took about a step toward him and he started backing up,” said Hodges, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs about 230 pounds.

A fan might be more bold with a smaller official, he said.

Jason West, a spokesman for the Missouri State High School Activities Association, said the bill is aimed toward youth leagues, where parents are more involved.

“On that level is where a law like this is going to come into play,” he said. “That’s where I’ve had most of my issues as an official.”


Omegatron 10 years, 10 months ago

Every state should have a similar law on the books, or at the very least have a law banning offenders from sporting events for upto a year.

mandomax 10 years, 10 months ago

notice how Missouri feels it needs a noticeably stiffer penalty for crimes like this. Unsportsmanlike doesn't even begin to describe some fan behavior I've seen in Columbia when I've worn KU gear there. Maybe they'll put up giant billboards advertising the new fines like they do with all the "Click it or Ticket" signs or the billboards warning against drunk driving....

Eurekahwk 10 years, 10 months ago

Missouri people need to put down the crackpipe and realize it's just a game.

areyouserious 10 years, 10 months ago

why is this news? on the kusports website??? really?

hellx 10 years, 10 months ago

Based on the headline, I thought it was going to be a law targetting Marcus Morris...

jayhawkintexas 10 years, 10 months ago

Would Marcus Morris' accidental bump of an official be considered a crime under this bill? I support the intent o fthe bill--to protect officials from crazy fans and irate players/coaches but the bill needs to be clear that accidently bumping an official--and getting a technical--is not grounds for a criminal charge.

hawkone 10 years, 10 months ago

What about the ref that made that tackle in college football last year? What do you charge him with?

Jim Pendleton 10 years, 10 months ago

As much as we all like to abuse MU for a number of things, let's get real people. The fact that someone from Missouri is introducing such legislation is not really relevant to the issue at hand. There is way too much of this kind of thing going on all over the country, and not just a few places. I personally think it is a great piece of legislation, and if it passes, hopefully it will spread to other states, including ours.

Let's also realize this bill likely does not apply to fans attending an away game somewhere. However, if another fan assaults you at one of these events, then it becomes a police and legal issue, as there are laws to protect people at sporting events. Annoucements are made before every game about this.

We've all done it, but if you wear your team's gear to an away game, you are bound to take some abuse, particularly after the game if you lose. It is the risk you take for supporting your team on the road. Hopefully most people will not take it past a few verbal spars here and there.

Omegatron 10 years, 10 months ago

"What about the ref that made that tackle in college football last year? What do you charge him with?"

jayhawkintx73 10 years, 10 months ago

Every time the Mizzou fans boo a call that actually wasn't a bad call, they should be made to pay for the ticket to the game again. That would stop that bs quickly. Mizzou fans whined all during the first half about the refs while their team was missing layups, not getting back on defense, and making bad plays. And then when the score at the half was 45-19, they still thought they were equals to Kansas because it was a season split. Kansas dominates the series. Thats why we tell Kansas State fans "you call it a rivalry, we call it domination!"

jayhawkintx73 10 years, 10 months ago

jayhawkjim80, It could be a good piece of legislation, but if an umpire in Baseball chests up to a manager after a little criticism, they should also be held accountable for initiating the contact. And one thing that really pisses me off about Baseball is that each umpire has a different strike zone. The rule book only has one strike zone. If their job is to enforce to rule, ENFORCE THE RULE. If its not a strike in the rule book, its not a strike, and vice versa. If a guy in the NBA takes 3 steps, its traveling, BLOW THE WHISTLE! I'm not trying to tell them to be perfect, but enforce the rules when you see them broken during the play of the game. Referees aren't subjected to a press conference after a game, but should be. That might also stop much of the anger if a Ref has to answer to a bad call he/she made during the game. Or if they had to explain their ruling to the Fans. So far, the best officials in all of sports are in Football, they make the fewest mistakes, and when they do make them they have improved on getting help to make sure its the right call. If its the right call, no one will be mad. In basketball, the single hardest play to call is differentiating between a charging foul(offensive) to blocking(defensive). I have learned to never question them on this because they are so close and in full speed very hard to tell. Referees are a part of the game, and sometimes, very rarely, they do change the outcome of a game on a very controversial call. At the very least, these officials should review the tapes and learn now to officiate better, just like players have to to improve how they play the game. And if the officials make blatant errors, they should also be held accountable for that. Just one example, when an Umpire rings up a batter on strike 3 when the ball is 6 inches off the plate. I know the ball is traveling very fast, but 6 inches from as close as they are is not that hard to know, ITS NOT A STRIKE. Make the pitchers throw a strike, and don't give em 6 inches off the edge. That is blatant disregard for the integrity of the game.

Jim Pendleton 10 years, 10 months ago

intx73 - I can't disagree with any of your comments. They are points well taken. I particularly agree with the fact that all officials should be held accountable after each event, and it bothers me that coaches and players can't openly comment about officials without getting fined or suspended. I don't think coaches/players should openly say this ref sucks, etc. but they should be able to comment on calls. Maybe then the officials would comment on why a call went a certain way and what the rule is.

While I agree that officials do occasionally instigate contact, it is more often the other way around. Once in awhile you do see a league crack down on officials for this sort of behavior, but it needs to be more so. The coach/player is the one who generally starts the argument, but the official needs to keep his wits about him and be professional about the whole thing.

While this legislation is directed mostly to protect officials, the other thing there is way too much of is parents getting into it with their kid's coaches. If you have a comment to make to them, make it in a civilized manner, but don't get into a public argument or fight because you don't like the way your kid is being used. There have been some legal issues over the years in this regard as well, which is a real shame.

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