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Mistreatment and harassment of school sports officials should not be allowed

Guest essay (Newsday)

Is berating or mocking an umpire really “part of the game,” as Aaron Boone recently commented after his 32nd career ejection as Yankees manager?

Perhaps he meant that his behavior was an acceptable part of the “theatrics” of professional sports. After all, aren’t coordinated end zone celebrations an accepted part of professional football? Or perhaps he meant that it was an acceptable part of his job to motivate millionaire players for billionaire owners. As Yankees superstar Aaron Judge reportedly remarked after one of Boone’s earlier ejections, “We love it as a team” because it shows “he’s out there fighting with us.”

But should that behavior really be part of baseball — or any sport — especially at nonprofessional levels?

In Suffolk County, school sports officials and Section XI — the body charged with administering and governing interscholastic athletics in Suffolk — remain at an impasse in contract negotiations as the fall sports season approaches. One issue that needs more attention is abuse of officials. It occurs too often and seems to have become “part of the game.” Let’s call it what it is: unacceptable mistreatment and harassment of officials, whether by coaches or fans. Besides conveying the wrong message to young athletes, it has led to a dwindling number of certified officials willing to work in that environment.

We officials see this abuse in all sports at all levels. It runs the gamut from the seemingly innocuous to the egregious. It ranges from relatively good-natured jibes (“you’re missing a good game” or “you need glasses”) to occasional jeers and unflattering and sometimes expletive-laced outbursts. Coaches react to a “missed” call with an isolated rant or incessant badgering, and sometimes criticize the officiating in a postgame tirade.

I and most of my colleagues have been confronted by irate, sometimes belligerent, fans while leaving the field, raising reasonable fear for our safety. At school contests, school security officials escort us to locker rooms and/or our cars, admirably preventing further escalation. Outside the school environment, there is no such protection.

Perhaps officials at the professional level are willing to — or must — take the abuse if it is indeed “part of the game.” Or perhaps they just get paid enough to take it. School sports officials do not. An NFL official reportedly earns more in one game — roughly $12,000 — than the total compensation paid to an entire high school football officiating crew of five over an entire season ($134 per official per game).

Whether one thinks there is a salary high enough to compensate an official for such abuse, the reality is that it has no place in school sports. Coaches, parents and other adults who scream at game officials set a poor example for young impressionable fans, who might get the idea that such behavior is acceptable in other facets of life. We all know it’s not right to scream at teachers, auto mechanics or store clerks doing their jobs. So why is it OK to scream at the refs?

Suffolk County Football Officials Association President Marc A. Negrin said “a robust abuse policy to protect sports officials from any form of mistreatment or harassment” is crucial to a safer, more respectful environment for sports officials. A robustly enforced policy — including expulsion of fans who violate the policy — would also provide a safer, more respectful environment for youth players, coaches, and fans, while simultaneously encouraging growth in the ranks of new officials.
One thing is clear: Respect for officials should always be “part of the game.”

THIS GUEST ESSAY reflects the views of Peter Ausili, an attorney and certified football and girls’ lacrosse official in Suffolk County. Is referee abuse really part of the game?

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There is a big difference between the culture of soccer and baseball, basketball and football.

In soccer disrespectful words or action are DISSENT and merits a yellow card.

Baseball is the worst because the adults around the game think they can act like knuckleheads because they see baseball managers on TV reacting like undisciplined out of control idiots. If you watched the Little League World Series you see young players doing the same as pros-bat flips after a home run and all sorts of immodest behaviors that should not be allowed since it shows poor sportsmanship.

Basketball and football also have Coaches constantly arguing with the officials.

The more the adults misbehave the message being sent to their players is that it is acceptable.

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