Proposed Missouri law would increase criminal penalties for abuse of sports officialsFebruary 14, 2018 10:31pm

Feb. 14-- KANSAS CITY, Mo.-Youth sports officials and referees in Missouri may be in line for "special victim" status.

Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would afford additional protection to those who officiate games. House Bill No. 1725, sponsored by Rep. Jerome Barnes, Raytown, would increase the criminal penalties for people convicted of assaulting a youth sports official.

Among those who already receive such protection: law enforcement officials, emergency personnel and highway workers.

Why is such protection needed?

On example: Earlier this month in Raytown, a 21-year-old man left the stands and punched a referee in the face after fans disagreed with calls made during a junior-varsity girls basketball game.

According to the National Association of Sports Officials, Missouri would join 23 other states with laws specifically defining assaults on sports officials as crimes, or other legislation that could protect sports officials.

This isn't the first time Missouri lawmakers have voiced their concern over behavior at sporting events.

In 2015, the state legislature approved a resolution calling on school districts and Little League programs, as well as high school, college and recreational programs and law enforcement and prosecutors, to "do all they can to put an end to the increased threats and assaults on sports officials and to prosecute such criminal acts to the full extent of the law."

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(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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