Verbal and physical abuse of game officials and poor sportsmanship by spectators has led to a shortage of referees, leading leagues and states legislatures to enact rules of conduct and criminalize assaults.
Nine out of ten high school sports associations need more referees, according to a survey by the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). More than three quarters (76%) of the survey respondents - the sixty governing bodies in charge of administering high school sports in the United States - listed poor sportsmanship by parents as single biggest reason officials quit.
Sixty-eight percent cited poor sportsmanship by coaches and players as a factor. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, fifteen percent of youth games involve some sort of verbal or physical abuse from coaches and parents, up from five percent just five years earlier. NASO reported receiving two to three calls a week reporting physical threats or acts of violence against sports officials.
In response to what the New York Times called "the rising tide of misbehavior at high school and youth sports, especially among adults," many leagues and even state legislatures are making efforts to curb misconduct. New Mexico, for example, has enacted a law increasing penalties for attacks on referees, and the Illinois Legislature passed a bill mandating a minimum fine of $1,000 for battery against sports officials. A total of twenty -two states have enacted statutes making it a crime to assault a sports official.
Revised May 9, 2013