A local community in Ohio is taking a stand against the increasing incidents of violence and harassment against sports officials and referees at sporting events. The city of Brook Park is proposing a new law that would make it a criminal offense to physically harm or confront an official during or after a game.
The need for the law
The legislation was introduced by Ward 4 Councilman Richard Scott, who said he was motivated by his sons’ experience as umpires and the reports of parents and spectators attacking officials, coaches and even other parents at sporting events. He said he wanted to provide safety and support for the officials and ensure they come back to the city.
Scott said that about 26 states have similar laws to protect sports officials, but Ohio is not one of them. He said he hoped that Brook Park would set an example for other communities and the state to follow.
The details of the law
The proposed law would codify and penalize any physical confrontation with, or physical harm to, an official. It would apply to any sporting event within the city, whether it is organized by schools, leagues, clubs or associations. It would also cover any players, coaches, spectators or anyone else involved in the event.
The law would give the police the authority to charge violators with disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor offense. The degree of the misdemeanor would depend on the severity of the harm or confrontation, and it would be up to the prosecutor to determine the appropriate penalty. Scott said that if the game is stopped for any reason due to unruly behavior, it would be an automatic violation of the law.
The reaction to the law
The legislation will have its third reading and vote at the Oct. 17 city council meeting. Scott said he expected it to pass with a majority support from his fellow council members. He said he had received positive feedback from the public and the sports officials.
However, not everyone is in favor of the law. Councilman-at-large Brian Poindexter said he opposed the legislation because he thought it was unnecessary and too broad. He said he feared that it would create the risk of arbitrary enforcement and weaponize an ordinance against people. He said he believed that existing laws were sufficient to deal with any cases of violence or harassment against officials.
Scott disagreed with Poindexter’s view and said that the law was needed to send a clear message that Brook Park does not tolerate any disrespect or abuse of sports officials. He said he wanted to create a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone involved in sporting events.
The impact of the law
If the law is passed, Brook Park would be one of the first cities in Ohio to have such a measure to protect sports officials. Scott said he hoped that it would encourage more people to become officials and reduce the shortage of qualified referees and umpires in various sports. He also hoped that it would improve the sportsmanship and civility among players, coaches and spectators.
The law would also have signage posted at sporting venues to inform people about the rules and consequences of violating them. Scott said he hoped that by raising awareness and education, the law would prevent any incidents from happening in the first place.