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Proposed bill hopes to rein in unruly fans at youth competitions

Bill would make poor fan behavior at games fineable
Bill would make poor fan behavior at games fineable 02:13

MINNEAPOLIS — If you have kids in youth sports, you have seen it: parents and fans behaving badly when they don't like a call by a referee.

In Talking Points, Esme Murphy takes a look at a bill that would make that kind of behavior pretty costly.

The number of referees available for youth sports is down by as much as 60%. It's not the long hours and relatively low pay that is driving potential refs away — it is spectators and parents behaving badly. 

A new bill being proposed at the legislature is hoping to change that behavior. The bill would create a $1,000 fine for anyone interfering with a referee before, after or during a game. The bill would also create a special gross misdemeanor for a physical attack on a referee. 

Right now, attacks include everything from verbal abuse to throwing food and drinks to punches. Incidents in Minnesota have even included stalking behavior, with refs even being followed to their homes. 

READ MORE: Youth sports referee David Rivera receives life-changing double transplant

A state representative who is proposing the bill, and who has also been a football and basketball referee for 20 years, said it's gotten so bad he recently considered quitting. Rep. John Huot was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning at 10:30 a.m.

Proposed bills would punish unruly fans at youth sporting events 05:19

"We are actually talking about those who cross the line and we actually see it in our own state. Last year, in southern Minnesota, we saw a group of fans go after players on the floor yelling really bad comments and some racial epithets. That's an unruly fan that has to be addressed," Huot said. 

Huot said the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission estimates there are about 1,000 incidents of referee interference per year. Under the proposed bill, the Amateur Sport Commission would impose a $1,000 fine. The bill would not just apply to traditional sports, but also competitions such as quiz bowl, debate and dance.

In Minnesota, school principals are also allowed to ban someone from games for a year.

You can watch WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and Adam Del Rosso every Sunday at 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

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