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Legislation Would Enhance Penalties for Harassment of a Sports Official

By John Forester | December 11, 2019

A bipartisan bill (LRB-4781) that will enhance the penalties for those who harass sports officials is currently circulating for co-sponsorship inside the State Capitol.  The authors indicate they are bringing this bill forward because high school sports officials are quitting in large numbers and youth sports programs are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain officials due to unruly and verbally abusive fans.  The bill is being introduced at the request of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA) the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Below are some staggering statistics courtesy of NASO:

-24 States have Assault Legislation, Civil Statues and/or Supportive Resolutions protecting and supporting sports officials. Wisconsin is not among them.

-The average age of sports officials across the country is 53 years old.

-Nearly 48% of male officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety in connection to officiating.

-Nearly 45% of female officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety in connection to officiating.

-57% of sports officials believe that sportsmanship is getting worse. Youth, adult recreation and high school levels are identified as the worst sportsmanship levels.

-Parents (40%), coaches (30%) and fans (18%) cause the most sportsmanship problems.

-43% of officials and officiating leaders cite that most new officials quit within the first 1-3 years.

-13% of officials have been assaulted by either a fan, coach or player.

-The average starting age for a sports official is now 40-45 years old. Thirty years ago, the average starting age for a sports official was 20-25 years old.

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