By Ken Reed
Sports fans have long heaped verbal abuse on referees and umpires. While that’s certainly not great from a sportsmanship perspective, it comes with the territory.
The problem today is that too often verbal abuse is turning into physical abuse.
“The negative atmosphere in the public sector is getting much worse,” according to Mark Dreibelbis, an assistant commissioner of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. “Last season we saw the safety of officials in jeopardy, too.”
Last football season, an assistant high school football coach ordered two of his players to deliberately collide with an official. The incident generated more than 12 million views on the internet. More parents, coaches and fans are getting physical with officials too. There is a growing number of reports of officials getting ambushed in parking lots after games.
“Physical violence is a growing problem,” says Barry Mano, the president of the National Association of Sports Officials.
“Essentially every week our office receives a report about a game official being physically assaulted at a game by a coach, player or spectator.”
The increase in physical violence parallels the growth of our country’s win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mindset.
Within the last two years, recreation league soccer officials in Utah and Michigan have died after being punched by players. The absurdity of that fact is hard to fathom.
High school and youth sports officials usually get a small stipend for their services but when travel and equipment expenses are factored in, their take home pay is usually well below minimum wage.
“Most of our officials are doing it because they want to give back to the community. It’s almost a community service type of attitude that they have,” Poudre School District (CO) athletic director Russ McKinstry says.
“It’s just really important for all of us as coaches, as fans, that we are respecting officials. They are providing a service to us that’s almost voluntary in nature when you look at how much they’re paid.”
Either respect for officials begins to go up or the number of games our high school and youth sports athletes get to play will go down. Virtually, every state in the country has seen a decline in the number of sports officials — for all sports — over the last decade. Eliminating games will be the only solution if that trend isn’t reversed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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