A bill currently in the Louisiana Senate would create a misdemeanor crime for harassing refs and officials at youth athletic events. Being convicted of the crime could come with up to 90 days of imprisonment.
Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate reports that House Bill 184 would created a class of misdemeanor crime for “harassment of a school or recreation athletic contest official.” The state Senate voted 35-0 in favor of the bill over the weekend. The bill will now return to the state House of Representatives for consideration of an amendment that would criminalize “not leaving the field and facility when ordered by police,” per The Advocate.
The sponsor of the bill, Republican Cameron Henry, says the bill is “unfortunate,” but necessary, USA Today reports. Louisiana’s high school athletic association has already sent out a memo telling parents to stop harassing and threatening referees, and USA Today cites a case in which a youth basketball coach in Michigan was arrested for assaulting a referee. Police say the coach punched the official and knocked him unconscious, and a family member of the official posted on Facebook that he was being treated for a concussion and a broken collarbone, among other injuries.
The Chicago Tribune reported last month on a shortage in officials across all sports in youth and high school leagues. That story cited a survey in which 87% of officials said they’d experienced verbal abuse, and that the behavior of spectators has caused many officials to leave the job altogether.