The Ohio House of Representatives worked on a bipartisan basis and passed House Bill 208, which would institute enhanced penalties for assaulting sports officials. The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Bill Roemer (R–Richfield), who says the time has come for meaningful action to be taken.
“As a longtime coach, participant, and rec sports administrator, I have seen firsthand the profound effect that unsportsmanlike behavior has on our officials, our leagues, and our kids,” said Roemer. “Too often lately, heated disagreements have escalated to physical violence against referees and umpires - a trend which should have absolutely no place in our sports.”
The bill would establish penalties for assaulting a sports official while performing their duties, including a $1,500 fine and 40 hours of community service. For any subsequent offenses of the same kind, the assailant could be charged with a fifth degree felony, which could result in prison time.
“The testimony we have heard from referees across the state makes one thing abundantly clear: physical confrontations are becoming too frequent,” said Roemer. “Sports officials deserve the assurance that they are safe when they go to work – not just for their safety, but for the integrity of the game. These are good, upstanding members of our communities whose only aim is to uphold fair play. They deserve our respect, and I applaud my fellow House members for affording them these much-needed protections.”
Roemer was joined by Representative Joe Miller (D–Amherst) as a joint sponsor of the bill, which overwhelmingly passed in the Ohio House. It will now advance to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.