YOUNGSVILLE, LA — Watch what you say at the ball game. Starting today it could land you three months in jail.
State lawmakers passed the new law making it a crime to harass and threaten sports officials.
In the text of the law, it defines “School athletic contest official” as this: any referee, umpire, coach, instructor, administrator, staff person, or school or school board employee of any public or private elementary and secondary school.
“You’re always just minutes away from something going out of hand.” says Tim Robichaux, director, Youngsville Sports Complex
Robichaux says when the competition is heated, there are a lot of ways we react to a bad call.
“It’s an emotional issue because most of them are dealing with their children”, says Tim Robicheaux, the Director of the Youngsville Sports Complex. “I mean their children are playing, especially youth sports”.
Everyone there Thursday had to obey a new Louisiana law that makes it a crime to harass a school or recreation athletics contest official.
Jesse Caballero is both a coach and a referee. His team won their game today, but Caballero says, “There were some questionable calls that I got frustrated with, but you just got to take a breath.”
The law authorizes penalties if the official feels “In fear of bodily harm” while officiating.
If found guilty you could face up to 90 days in jail, mandatory counseling, and community service work.
“We’re disappointed we even have to have a law like this”.
-Paul Larosa, President of High School Officials Association
Paul LaRosa is president of Louisiana’s High School Officials Association and serves on the national board. He’s seen problems growing in Louisiana and beyond recently.
In June, a young Colorado umpire warned parents about using profane language. Then…”An all-out physical brawl”, says Robichaux. “He was a 13-year-old umpiring and 8-year-old baseball game” says LaRosa
Larosa says, “This law isn’t about telling people to shut up sit down and don’t express your opinion on anything. That’s okay. It’s when it becomes threatening”.
As an umpire, Caballero has this reminder. “We’re human. I know I’ve made a couple of mistake in some pretty big games…Relax and let these guys decide the outcome of the game”