Wisconsin lawmakers propose bill making it a crime to harass sports officials

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wisconsin lawmakers propose bill making it a crime to harass sports, athletic officials

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A pair of Wisconsin lawmakers want to blow the whistle on people who harass athletic officials.

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A proposed bill in the state Legislature would make harassment or intimidation of officials a misdemeanor, WITI reported.

The bipartisan bill, proposed by Democrat Don Vruwink and Republican Todd Novak, would make it a crime to strike, shove, kick or intimidate a sports official in Wisconsin, the television station reported.

Vruwink, 67, who also umpires, said the safety of officials is important.

"You feel threatened," Vruwink told WITI. "You do it because you love the game, but you don't love the game when you get yelled at for making a call that somebody thought was wrong.

“This bill targets people who will follow the umpire out into the parking lot, that sort of thing."

Athletic officials applauded the proposed bill.

"I've been on matches where officials have been threatened," Jason Palmer, a volleyball and water polo referee in Racine, told WDJT.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association also supports the bill, the television station reported.

Dave Anderson, the WIAA’s executive director, said in a statement that, “We are grateful for [the legislature’s] willingness to help protect and preserve these school-based activities ... which contribute to the fabric of our communities and society.”

Twenty-four states have laws specifically protecting referees, WDJT reported.

The two lawmakers hope to hold hearings on the bill in early 2020, WITI reported.

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