Kentucky bill would increase penalties for referee harassment

January 9, 2020 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Three Kentucky lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would enhance penalties against those who harass or assault sports officials.

football refereeThe proposal, coined the “Good Sport” bill, would amend state law to make assault of a sports official a Class D felony. It also would establish the offense of “intimidation of a sports official” as a Class A misdemeanor.

Legislators introduced the bill nearly nine months after a referee in western Kentucky was assaulted by a coach at a club basketball tournament. The referee, Kenny Culp, was hospitalized with a concussion, broken collarbone and other injuries. The coach was charged with felony assault.

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Butch Cope, Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) associate commissioner and director of championships, officials and students, told WCPO in Cincinnati that the association loses between 100 and 150 licensed officials each year.

“The number one thing they tell us when they don’t come back is ‘We don’t like the way we’re being treated by coaches, players, parents, administrators, whatever,'” Cope told WCPO.

The bill — authored by Reps. Brandon Reed, Chad McCoy and Randy Bridges — is not unlike what’s taking place in several other states. Lawmakers in Wisconsin, Missouri and New York also have proposed harsher penalties for those who harass or assault referees. The number of licensed officials is declining nationwide, and surveys show that fan and coach treatment is a primary cause.

Read more from WCPO about what’s taking place in Kentucky.

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