Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

2, 4, 6, 8, what we gonna legislate?

with one comment

In Missouri, it’s carving out as its own special assault the crime of beating the shit out of referees or coaches, something heartily supported by this columnist at the Blue Springs Examiner. The proposed state legislation, not beating the shit out of referees or coaches:

Usually I’m not a fan of the state legislature sticking its nose into the sports world.

The state representatives and senators have considered trying to take over the Missouri State High School Activities Association in the past, and that was a very bad idea.

But the Missouri House is currently considering legislation that would make penalties stiffer for attacking a sports official in the state.

And that is a very good idea.

It’s OK to disagree with a call now and then. I have to say I even have from time to time when watching my daughter’s games.

But officials in any sport have a tough enough time without having to worry about someone attacking them after – or during – the event.

And this proposed legislation would make people who have an inclination to do such things think twice before they act. Such attacks, under this bill, would mean the person instigating it would face up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine. As of now, most of these attacks would fall under third-degree assault, which is punishable by only a $300 fine.

I would definitely brain a referee for $300. But for $1,000? Whoo, I’m sitting right back down. Just be glad, Missouri people, they haven’t yet taken away your right to even disagree with the ref.

Seriously, about 20 states have passed similar laws, though no one can track how many ref and coach assaults happened before the bills passed, and how many happened afterward. But even with no empirical evidence, we all feel better when these laws go on the books, right? (The sponsor of the law that passed in my home state of Illinois was my own state Senator, Ed Maloney.) And then we can mock states like Connecticut, where such a bill has failed multiple times, and call them referee-and-coach shit-beater-outer lovers.

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In the posher realms of Connecticut, these shirts are called “ref beaters.”

In Rhode Island, it’s forming a state committee to hash out youth sports disputes — including fines for parties deemed to be the evil side. From The Associated Press:

Soccer dads and hockey moms beware: Lose your cool at your kids’ games and you might have to pay.

A bill pending in Rhode Island would create a seven-member council to settle disputes in youth recreational leagues, with the power to fine parents or others it thinks are in the wrong. Backers say it would create a more systematic way for resolving sports fights that sometime result in children or parents arbitrarily being removed from organized leagues.

While some other state and town governments have tried to enforce good sportsmanship, national experts say no state has ever considered intervening so deeply in sideline squabbles. …

Jeff Southworth, 48, said more regulation is needed to hold league officials accountable. He called Pawtucket police more than three years ago after he said his daughter’s soccer coach showed up angry and unwelcome at his family’s home. The two clashed over league matters, he said, including whether Southworth could videotape soccer games.

Southworth’s daughter quit the team and needed counseling, he said. The family tried, but was unable to get, local or state soccer officials or the city government to intervene. …

Sen. John Tassoni Jr., a Democrat who works for a politically influential labor union and the bill’s sponsor, said he may still revise the bill to give the council the power to compel witnesses to testify. Identical legislation has been filed by Democratic Rep. Timothy Williamson, the senior deputy majority leader in the House.

Tassoni wrote the legislation after hearing from parents, including the mother of a young girl cut from a football cheerleading squad because her mother argued with a coach.

“The board of directors said, ‘You’re out. Take your kid and leave,'” Tassoni said. “Who loses? The child loses because they can’t play sports with their friends.” …

No surprise, league officials hate this bill. Perhaps because it’s being pushed by the same asshole parents that make their lives hell to begin with. This bill, by the way, establishes no parameters for the threshhold for complaints to be heard. Whether they’re right or wrong, there’s nothing youth sports volunteers will like more than being dragged before a state committee to explain why Timmy isn’t getting enough playing time.

Finally, in Maryland, it’s making sure youth (and adult) sports officials aren’t covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law. The impetus was when a recently laid-off worker/active umpire listed Howard County Officials Inc. on his unemployment form, which led the state’s department of labor to demand $15,700 in payment from the group for past unpaid unemployment insurance. From The View Newspapers:

[Bill sponsor Allan] Kittleman [a Republican from West Friendship] said the state’s new interpretation of referees could have far-reaching implications, forcing officiating organizations across Maryland to pay thousands of dollars in taxes previously not required or risk closing.

The state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation opposes Kittleman’s bill, saying his legislation would create a “loophole” that could have unintended consequences. “… Such carve-outs can unintentionally leave categories or workers without the ability to collect unemployment benefits, a critical social safety net,” the agency argued in testimony submitted to the Finance Committee.

Agency spokeswoman Dori Berman said the state routinely opposes exemptions to the unemployment insurance law, though committee members said “paperboys” have already been exempted.

Even if Kittleman’s bill were to pass, it would likely not save the group, which has about 40 umpires working more than 3,000 games a year, because of the $15,700 bill it’s facing, the umpires said.

At [a] hearing, Thomas Perez, secretary of the state Labor Department, said he hoped to meet with Kittleman and find a “common-sense” solution to the officials’ troubles, although he would have to study it more before saying what that solution might be.

“If we had some time to craft something that made legal sense and common sense, we’re more than willing to do that,” Perez said, adding that he once spent summers umpiring baseball games. “There are a number of layers of review that could very well result in a different determination.”

So far, there are no reports of any meeting between Howard County Officials and the labor department. And the bill hasn’t moved anywhere since the Feb. 17 hearing. That means there’s only one thing the aggrieved organization and its officials can do — complain about the jagoff who blew their cover.

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One Response

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  1. I see officials regularly escorted from the playing field to their vehicle after high school games by Sheriff’s deputies, and even that doesn’t always guarantee a parent doesn’t shout something at them.

    Officials in some sports are already at a premium – with the prices of gas at times, it makes it tough to officiate and still come out on top. Add difficult parents to the mix and it’s that much worse.

    Dennis Murray

    March 11, 2009 at 9:13 pm


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