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Referees need a law to help keep them safe

Buckeye State lawmakers still are working on pending legislation in the General Assembly that would make assaulting an Ohio referee a crime punishable by fine or community service hours.

To be clear, assaulting a human being already is a crime in Ohio. But perhaps that’s the problem. Too many choose not to think of referees as fellow human beings when something as monumentally, earth-shatteringly important and life-shaping as organized youth sports is at stake. (For goodness sake, folks, these are games! They are being played by children. Get over yourselves!)

According to state Rep. Bill Roemer, R-Richfield, 2 of every 3 sports officials quit during their first three years because of spectator abuse. That is shameful.

However, because simply behaving with respect and decency and setting a good example for our children is not incentive enough for people to keep their heads during a sporting event, lawmakers are working on a bill that would make an assault on referees before, during or after a sporting event, or in retaliation for their decisions, a first-degree misdemeanor with an automatic fine of $1,500 and 40 hours of community service.

A second conviction could lead to a felony charge that could include prison time if the assault was committed with a weapon or caused serious harm.

“Sports officials deserve to be safe from undue harm on the job, not just for their safety, but for the integrity of sports at large,” Roemer told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Fewer people are volunteering to referee youth sporting events, perhaps partially because of the abuse they fear they will face. That leaves those who are willing to do the work stretched even thinner. Lawmakers should move quickly to finalize this legislation, but in the meantime, it would be nice if the “grown-ups” in attendance at youth sporting events would grow up.

editorial@vindy.com

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