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Senator Funke re-introduces bill to protect sports officials

Andrew Hyman
Updated: September 27, 2019 11:46 PM
Created: September 27, 2019 11:11 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) — Local State Senator Rich Funke is throwing the flag on how people treat sports officials.

Funke re-introduced a bill that would increase legal protections for officials who are harassed or assaulted on the job.

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In the bill, which was previously introduced in 2012, physically assaulting an official would result in a Class D felony, punishable up to seven years behind bars.

As for harassment? It'd be a Class B misdemeanor, which could land you in jail for up to three months.

In a statement, Funke says: 

“If we are going to teach our young people the value of good sportsmanship, we first have to model it ourselves… Unruly spectators should not be allowed to intimidate referees, umpires, or other sports officials. My legislation delivers that message loud and clear. “

Funke cited a survey conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials which showed 13% of respondents had been assaulted and 47% have feared for their lives while on the job.

"It's all about respect, no one wants to get yelled at," said President of the Rochester Chapter of Football Officials Bob Lockhart.

Lockhart and his crew of officials were working a game at Webster Thomas High School Friday night. It’s a place Lockhart says has provided a “safe environment” for referees and officials.

"We're trying to make sure that officials can do their job without having to feel the pressure from fans," said Athletic Director Steve LaMonica.

Funke also mentioned a study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations which reports 80% of sports officials leave their job after three years.

Both Lockhart and LaMonica say Section V sports have been dealing with a lack of officials for years and violent or threatening incidents serve to drive those officials away.

Even with what LaMonica says is relatively fair treatment by fans and players, he says Funke’s bill is long overdue.

"We want to make sure that it discourages and protects us as well," he said.

"Let the coaches’ coach, let the players play, and let the officials officiate," LaMonica said.

In a statement to News 10 NBC, Section Five Executive Director, Kathy Hoyt said:

“Section V is in full support of any proposal that would protect sports officials from threats or physical harm.  Sports officials are essential to interscholastic athletics and valued members of any sporting event. Without officials, student athletes would not have an opportunity to participate in the sports they so enjoy.  With everyone working together, we need to ensure that sports officials are treated respectfully.”

Right now, the bill is only in committee. If it did pass, it would go into effect Nov. 1.


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