Missouri lawmaker sponsors 2 bills to protect referees

January 2, 2020 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
A Missouri legislator is sponsoring two bills that would provide more protection for referees against unruly fans.

State Rep. Jerome Barnes, who served 26 years as a referee, submitted two proposals last month that he hopes will curb verbal abuse and violence against sports officials. One bill would classify referees as “special victims,” providing them the same protection as highway construction workers, utility workers and corrections officers.

“When the guy comes out to cut your utilities or cable off, it’s not because they want to do that, he’s following the company rules,” Barnes told Missourinet. “If you hit him or do something to him, he’s in that special victims group. Same thing with the officials. They’re not out there enforcing the rules because they like them, they’re out there enforcing the rules of the basketball or football game and should be protected as well.”

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Barnes proposed a similar bill in 2018, but it never advanced to the House floor for a full vote.

Barnes’ second proposal establishes penalties for verbally harassing officials and defines “recreation athletic contest official.” It states that a person who harasses a school or recreation athletic contest official can be fined up to $500 and face up to 90 days in jail.

Conduct toward referees has become a major national issue over the last couple years, leading many states to adopt new laws. Wisconsin is considering adopting new penalties for those who harass referees. Last year, Louisiana passed a bill that made it a crime to yell at referees or coaches.

Read more from Missourinet.

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