Bill would criminalize abusing referees in Kansas

Posted at 9:37 AM, Feb 09, 2023

A bill working its way through the Kansas legislature would criminalize abuse of sports officials.

House Bill 2139 categorizes abuse as striking, shoving, kicking, spitting on or threatening physical abuse on a sports official. Approaching sports officials in a "menacing, threatening irate or violent manner" would also be criminalized if the bill passes.

Fans in Kansas would also want to be careful about what they say to referees at a game if the bill passes. Yelling obscene language could also get a fan charged with a misdemeanor.

If the official is an adult, the abuser would face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. That punishment would increase to $2,500 and a year in jail if the official is a minor.

John Dehan, who runs Call the Game, an organization that assigns officials in the Kansas City area, testified in support of the bill. He's an outspoken advocate of officials.

Recently, he responded to a person on Twitter who said they had to comfort a 14-year-old referee who was disrespected by adults.

"Next time you yell at an official just remember they are a father/mother. Husband/wife. Son/daughter. Would you let anyone yell at your player like that? We make mistakes as officials but we don't deserve what I hear as I watch those who work for me," he tweeted.