Legislators Circulate Bill to Protect Sports Officials

Reps. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Don Vruwink (D-Milton) & Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Sens. Andre Jacque (R-DePere) and Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) are circulating a bill that would protect sports officials. Assault of sports officials is a rising problem across the country and in Wisconsin. The bill (LRB 4781) seeks to address this problem by strengthening the penalty for harassment of a sports official to a Class A misdemeanor. (Cosponsor memo)

The bill defines “sports official” as a referee, umpire, linesman, timekeeper, inspector, judge, or person who performs similar functions, whether paid or unpaid, at a sporting event open to the public. Under the bill, the penalty for harassing a sports official can be a fine up to $10,000, up to nine months in prison, or both. The bill also allows judges to impose up to 40 hours of community service work or counseling at the violator’s expense.

According to the National Association of Sports Officials, 47 percent of officials reported feeling unsafe due to administrator, coach, player, or spectator behavior. 13 percent of adult officials said they have been physically assaulted by a fan, player, or coach during or after a game.

The enhanced penalty of sports official harassment provided by LRB 4781 will help combat a disturbing trend of escalated harassment of officials in Wisconsin as well as help to retain officials who have increasingly become discouraged with the atmosphere in which they work.

24 states have passed similar legislation addressing assault against sports officials.

The bill is supported by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, National Association of Sports Officials (which is based in Racine, Wis.), Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

LRB 4781 in the news:

Door County Daily News – Protecting sports officials pending in Senate

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – If you harass a ref, you could get hit with jail time or up to $10,000 in fines under this proposed Wisconsin bill

WTAQ – New bill aims to stamp out harassment of sports officials

Fox 6 – Bill would make it a crime to harass sports officials in Wisconsin: ‘You feel threatened’

Wisconsin State Journal – WIAA backs bill to protect sports officials

CBS 58/WDJT Milwaukee – Proposed bill would make harassing sports officials a crime in Wisconsin

School Administrators Alliance – Legislation would enhance penalties for harassment of a sports official