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Harass the Referee at Your Kid’s Game? You Could Get Jail Time.

Angry soccer moms yelling at referee during kids' game.

If your kid plays a sport, chances are you’ve seen some pretty bad behavior — from the parents on the sidelines, that is.

My kids have played soccer for years and I have my share of horror stories: parents screaming at the referee; parents punching each other in an all-out brawl. The absolute worst, however, was when I saw a dad physically go after a kid on the field. And this was at an AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) game, which is about as low-stakes a league as they come.

Aggressive sports parents have become such a problem that some youth sports leagues are suffering — verbal abuse has led to a shortage of umpires and referees in some areas.

“Yelling, complaining, entitled, know-it-all, rotten, difficult, impossible, no-good parents,” wrote Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal last summer, are the ones who are “driving away perfectly decent citizens making small wages trying to help their children play meaningless games for exercise and fun.”

Now, however, one New Jersey lawmaker has had enough. Assemblyman John Burzichelli is proposing tougher penalties for parents who attack or abuse youth sports referees. If it becomes law, parents could face up to five years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.

“Sports are designed to teach children structure, how to get along, how to play together,” he told WBGO. “Sometimes parents don’t help that process. So I would hope that this law is never exercised, but it will be there if parents can’t control themselves.”

Is it ridiculous that such a law is deemed necessary? Absolutely. Does this make me want to move to New Jersey — or at least have my kids play soccer there? Possibly.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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