Lawmakers: Sports officials facing violence
By RYAN MCCARTHY, KU Statehouse Wire Service | 2/19/2014
TOPEKA — In 40 years as a baseball umpire, Mike Holmes has seen plenty of abuse.
“I’ve had Coca-Colas thrown in my face by irate mothers of 13-year-olds,” Holmes said.
Holmes was at the state Capitol Monday to testify in favor of House Bill 2532, which would increase the penalty for assault and battery against a sports official. The bill would increase from a class C person misdemeanor to a higher misdemeanor, including a class B.
Legislators on the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee said the bill was necessary because of the increase in physical assaults on sports officials.
Holmes cited a report from the National Association of Sports Officials that documented 2,218 physical acts against sports officials during or after games in 2011. In 2001 there were 709 acts.
Twenty-three states that have laws protecting sporting officials from assaults, according to NASO’s website.
“Violence should not be tolerated in any situation, but specifically, violence committed in public has perhaps a more profound effect on society,” state Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, said. “It has been reported to me that sports officials are seeing a dramatic increase in violence against them. Many times this occurs in front of small children.”
John Dehan of Call The Game, a Kansas City area group that oversees officials and administrators and schedules officials to games, said officials need more protection from irate fans.
“We really don’t have an issue at high school level because we have game administrators there, we have ADs (athletic directors) that are there. They have security,” Dehan said. “Those people are taken care of. It’s the youth leagues. It’s the adult leagues.”
Dehan said there have been reports of three assaults the last three summers to his organization.
“What we’re doing is educating parents the best way we can,” Dehan said. “We’re talking to coaches and parents and we don’t allow that to occur, but the one or two individuals that will take to the extreme.“
After Dehan’s testimony, state Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, asked him how concealed weapons laws could affect officials and fans.
Dehan said it scared him even more for fans to have concealed weapons while officiating games.
“It makes me more nervous about more people on school campuses carrying guns because when I’m umpiring, I’m at home plate and my back is to the crowd,” Holmes said. “When my attention is on the game not the crowd.”
Chairman and state Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, clarified that the proposed changes in the law do not deal with assault with a deadly weapon or a gun, and there were already plenty of felony charges on the books for that.
Testifying in favor of the bill, Holmes said there should be a more severe penalty for assault on a sport official.
“We’re not looking to change society,” he said. “What were looking to do is give our law enforcement officials and prosecutors more ammunition to better punish and handle these situations.”
When the hearing closed, no decision on the bill’s fate had been made.