N.Y. senator proposes harsher penalties for harassing referees

November 1, 2019 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
A New York state senator has proposed a bill that would create harsher penalties for anyone who harasses or assaults sports referees.

basketball refereesSen. Rich Funke announced his bill this week at the Schottland YMCA in Pittsford, where he was joined by several referees. Nationwide, referees are leaving the profession in record numbers, and it’s no different in New York. Funke said that’s why sports officials need more protection from rambunctious fans.

“We’re seeing bad behaviors coming from student-athletes and parents and fans at a younger age,” said Diane Williams, a referee who attended the announcement. “For some reason, there is this unspoken feeling that you can go into a gym, and the person wearing the stripes who are there to enforce fairness and teach gamesmanship and sportsmanship, that it’s OK to be verbally abusive.”

Funke’s bill makes the intentional causing of physical injury to a sports official a class D felony of assault in the second degree. It also establishes a class B misdemeanor for aggravated harassment of a sports official when a person — with intent to annoy, harass, threaten or alarm a sports official — strikes or expectorates on such official.

“When 70% of the officials in Section V only last three years, we know that there’s something wrong,” Funke said. “We’re beginning to lose officials because of (harassment), and when we lose the officials, we lose the games that we love, because without them we don’t have a game anymore.”

The New York bill is along the lines of what Louisiana lawmakers passed last summer. In Louisiana, it’s now a crime to yell at referees and coaches, with offenders facing a fine and possible jail time.

Funke’s proposal currently awaits action by the Senate Rules Committee.

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