Rules of Engagement

It’s happened again.

In the span of just over a week, another high school referee has been assaulted during a football game, and again it happened in Texas.

This time the incident involved a player from San Antonio’s St. Anthony High School who, video shows, shoved a referee following an altercation on the field during the game.

Here’s the setup: The player had been penalized for being involved in a scuffle on the field during play, but after the flag was thrown the player pushed the referee who called the penalty by the shoulders before his teammates pulled him away.

No surprise, the player was tossed from the game after that.

Of course, all this comes on the heels of the incident at John Jay High School the week before, where video shows two John Jay players targeting a backfield judge, one knocking the referee down, the second one spearing him as he was on the ground.

What is precipitating these acts? Maybe there is no correlation between the two. In the case of the John Jay incident, the players now are claiming the targeted referee used racial slurs against them. For his part, the umpire is considering criminal charges.

But now we have video of the incidents, and we can see how disturbing the acts are. And perhaps it all has to do with the pressure of winning, especially in football-mad Texas. For his part, the top athletic official in John Jay’s school district, said, “This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed and experienced (anything like this) in the realm of athletics.”

While coaches have the responsibility to teach their players the lessons of sportsmanship and fair play, event organizers now have the responsibility of what to do when the rules aren’t followed. In Indiana, for example, referees suspended a season-opening football game after players got into a shoving match, which seems pretty tame after the referee-assault incidents we’ve now seen.

Schools and athletic conferences as well as event rights holders who produce out-of-school events now have to worry about not just the safety of players, but the safety of the referees, umpires and others paid to keep order at the games. The bottom line is, this has to stop to keep organized sports alive. Today, the issue is football. Tomorrow, it just might be basketball.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

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