Proposed bill: $10 thousand fine, jail time for fighting with sports officials

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- New legislation proposed in Wisconsin could mean a hefty fine or jail time for parents who harass sports officials.

Just introduced this week, the bill is already receiving bipartisan support. It comes after a string of incidents across the Badger State, where parents got in fights with referees. Several fights were recorded and went semi-viral, prompting Representative Don Vruwink to propose his latest bill.

“This bill has become necessary because of the way officials have been treated in the past few years,” Rep. Don Vruwink, 43rd Assembly.

If passed, the legislation would make it a crime to fight with sporting officials. It could cost parents up to $10,000 worth of fines or nine months of jail time.

NBC15 News spoke with coaches who say the new law could be exactly the change they need.

“Have them understand that, if I get fined and look like an idiot in front of the 500 people at the game, or if I get in trouble with the law, because I'm an idiot, maybe that's what needs to happen,” says Ben Schambow, head coach of the Columbus Boys Basketball Team.

In recent years, Wisconsin has seen a shortage of referees. Some say the issue could be attributed to the scrutiny refs face from parents.

“I think if parents could just remember that it's for the kids. And the kids are trying hard and the officials are trying hard. If that can be the message. And enjoy the experience,” says Jeff Schweitzer, a Columbus referee.

While the arguments can be tough on coaching staff and referees, some say it can be even more taxing on the youth players.

“If they have a mom or dad that are going to take things a little bit too far, it's not only going to reflect poorly on them, but also their child that's going to be playing in the game,” Schambow tells NBC15 News.

Lawmakers say they hope the new law would curb the number of incidents at future games, or work as incentive for more people to become referees.