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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

    New Ohio Bill Could Make Assaulting Referees a Felony


    The Ohio House and Senate are hard at work proposing a bill that would almost guarantee the safety of referees.

    Companion bills, House Bill 208 and Senate Bill 118, each rose the punishment for assaulting sports officials such as referees. The charge would rise from a misdemeanor to a fifth-degree felony, punishable by a year-long prison sentence and a 2,500 dollar fine.

    This law is mainly aimed at youth and high school leagues, though it will reach all the way to professional sport referees and umpires.

    State representatives Bill Roemer and Joe Miller are the co-sponsors of House Bill 208. They’ve argued that harsher punishments are the way to go and that it’s a matter of fairness.

    Roemer said in an interview, “It’s already a felony in Ohio to assault teachers, coaches, school administrators and bus drivers, but at a game the person that’s most likely to get assaulted is the umpire.”

    He also went on to say, “We want to make sure that the people who officiate really, in many cases, it’s almost a volunteer activity that they are well protected.”

    Both Roemer and Miller have been longtime sports officials, Roemer a baseball umpire and Miller a basketball referee, and although they’ve been verbally abused countless times, neither has been physically assaulted.

    Roemer says that the bill is so far supported by the Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass, along with different referee and umpire associations.

    So far it’s unclear whether or not the bill will pass the Ohio General Assembly.

    “I can see why it should be put in. I can understand the players’ anger on a bad call,” said Nate Dorn.

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