Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Back on Proposed Referee Harassment Bill

April 21, 2021 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Wisconsin lawmakers are balking at the idea of passing an anti-harassment bill against referees and umpires at high school and youth sports games.

Rep. Alex Dallman is a co-sponsor of the bill and said, according to APG-WI.com, that while the state has laws against referees or umpires, but lacks a sufficient way of punishing fans who cross the line but stop just short of an assault.

wisconsin“As a licensed sports official for the last 10 years I have been both verbally and physically confronted while officiating,” Dallman said during the hearing on his plan. “It has become an increasing issue across all levels of sports. And harassment has led to a decline in the number of people [becoming] sports officials.”

Dallman’s plan would make it a misdemeanor to harass or intimidate an official.

Last week Wisconsin lawmakers listened to hours of testimony, according to APG-WI.com, last week about the number of negative encounters between spectators and officials that have made it hard to retain officials across the state.

“This isn’t about the occasional displeasure of a spirited fan, or someone being hard on a ref or an ump,” Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Executive Director Dave Anderson told lawmakers last week, APG-WI.com reported. “Our officials have thick skin. But they shouldn’t have to be chased back to their cars. They shouldn’t have to feel fearful or unsafe, or confront the threat of violence for doing their job.”

But those who oppose the bill, like Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, questioned the need for creating a new crime.

“When I look at this bill, it makes me wonder if by passing this, we are putting acts of violence on the same stage as acts of harassment,” Ortiz-Velez asked during the session.

Other opposers questioned whether the schools and officials were simply not enforcing the rules and laws that have already been put in place.

Dallman explained, according to APG-WI.com, that those laws protect in the short-term.

“Once we remove them from the school, it solves the problem for that day. It doesn’t solve it forever,” Dallman said, according to APG-WI.com. “I’d like to see this enhancement to allow us to either deter them from doing this over and over again. Or at least be able to say ‘This is the penalty you have if you come back to our school and do this again.”

To read the full story from APG-WI.com on Wisconsin lawmakers pushing for this athletic official anti-harassment bill, click here