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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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