Football official attacked by players

Football official attacked by players

Troylon Griffin II, Sports Editor

Since mid-September, there have been a series of incidents in the sports world regarding sports officials, or referees, getting attacked or hurt intentionally by players during the game.

“I wouldn’t want to connect those dots and call it a trend,” Barry Mano, founder and president of the National Association of Sports Officials said. “But this is concerning. What we know is that now, when these things happen, there’s video and everyone can see it.”

   The incident occurred at Marbles Falls High School, in which the school was playing against John Jay High School. The official who was attacked was Robert Watts. During the fourth quarter game, two players attacked Watts and greatly injured him. The first player hit Watts from behind, knocking him on the ground and the second player speared Watts.

“I just cringe,” former high school official Tom Rice said. “It could have paralyzed the official, given him a concussion, it could have even killed him. It would be my hope that these players would be banned for life from any athletic event.”

The recorded incident has led to public outcry on the issue, something that has surprised Barry Mano. In 2013, two soccer officials died as a result of an attack, one in Michigan and the other in Utah.

“Those happened within 17 months of each other,” Mano said. “This thing in Texas outstrips that for all of the attention it is getting. Why, when we had two deaths? I think the reason is clear: video.”

Mano noted that physical assaults on officials are rare. South Carolina attorney and former football referee Thomas Brush supported this statement.

“I may know of one instance in 32 years where a player attacked a referee and the athlete was suspended from high school sports for life,” Brush said. “We don’t have any real issues. The kids are the easy part. I tell referees to just stay away from the parents.”

   Craig Anderson, assistant executive director for the Illinois High School Association, oversees the state’s officials. He has stated that one of the reasons it’s become hard to recruit referees in recent years is due to poor sportsmanship, whether it is by fans, coaches or players.”

Since the incident, authorizes have been investigating what exactly happened. The players claimed that their reason for injuring Watts was because he shouted racial slurs at them. However, Barry Mano says “there is no evidence at all that any racial slurs were used.”

The Marbles Falls Police Department announced that it was opening an investigation and hoped to have a resolution determined within a week but no arrests have been made at this point. The attorney for Robert Watts told The Today that the heinous crime was likely premeditated.

“This wasn’t passion turning into violence, this was premeditated crime,” attorney Alan Goldberger said.

However, this has only been the first of incidents of attacks. Just eight days after this incident, another player at a different high school shoved an official.

It cannot be determined as to why these incidents of disrespect towards officials is suddenly happening, but Barry Mano has noted that the incidents evoke the old term “kill the ump”, a joking phrase referring to hurting the referee for bad decisions. Nevertheless, Mano has stated it’s “no joke anymore.”