State bill may make assault on a sports official a felony

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Kentucky state legislators have proposed a bill that targets fans who physically and verbally abuse referees and other sports officials.

If the “Good Sport” bill passes, fans can be charged with a felony if they intentionally cause physical injury to the official while arriving, officiating, or departing from the facility.

The bill would also make it a class-a misdemeanor if a person makes any threat to a sports official of physical injury, damage to property, threat to physical confinement or restraint, or any other act which is illegal and is intended to substantially harm the official.

The director of Warren County Parks and Recreation, Chris Kummer, says county sports officials have been followed to their cars, threatened, shoved, and more, on multiple occasions.

“I’ve been physically assaulted. I have had my vehicle vandalized. I have had people come out onto a basketball court after me. I’ve had people follow me in cars after the games,” said John Sivley, a local referee.

Kris fields, a local referee, says sports officials are taught to not respond and to allow law enforcement or athletic directors to handle unruly fans.

Due to the harsh attacks both verbally and physically on sports officials, many Kentucky athletic programs are having trouble finding and keeping staff.

“It is hard to get people to fill those roles when fulfilling that role means subjecting yourself to verbal and physical assaults,” said Sivley.

Kummer wants to remind parents that many referees, umpires, and other officials are volunteers or paid very minimally and are often teenagers.

“Before you get heated think about who is behind the plate or who is on the court,” said Kummer.

According to a recent report by the National Association of Sports Officials, 75 percent of officials who have decided to quit say adult behavior was the reason behind their decision to leave.