Has your state passed laws related to assault and/or harassment of sports officials, officials’ liability and independent contractor status? State laws criminalizing attacks and harassment of officials serve as a deterrent and tell prosecutors, judges and juries that such acts are to be taken seriously. Limited liability laws are an added protection to exempt officials (sometimes only volunteer officials) from liability for injuries unless they are grossly negligent. Independent contractor laws classify officials as such — at least for the purposes of workers’ compensation.
While the scope of state legislation varies, sports officials should be able to perform their duties without threat of personal injury, administrative hearings or litigation because of their game calls. State legislators can show support for those who officiate by passing laws to protect them.
NASO has been bringing attention to assault/harassment, liability and independent contractor issues for years. The map, updated for 2020, displays the states that have passed laws dealing with those issues. There are currently 22 states that have officiating assault and/or harassment laws (including 20 with criminal laws and two with civil statutes), 16 with limited liability legislation and 14 states with independent contractor laws. In addition, three states — Idaho, Washington and Missouri — have supportive resolutions for officials. How does your state match up? If there is work to be done, consider getting involved in pushing for legislation.
Pass Legislation in Your State
Since 1984, when NASO first submitted model legislation regarding assaults against officials, members and legislators have used such models to construct their own legislative bills.
There is no foolproof plan to get the job done. Each state handles legislation differently, and it is up to the local constituency to manage the process effectively. It is NASO’s goal that individual members utilize the proposed legislative models and work with their local associations and legislators to construct viable laws. Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to do some research. Request an NASO Assault Legislation Packet and review the legislation resources at naso.org. And if your state does not have needed laws supporting officials, you can get involved.
1. Contact your local association.
Share with your association what other states have done in terms of legislation. Move forward united. You can also work to get other officials associations in the area or your state association to back your cause.
2. Circulate a petition.
Ask members of your association and area officials associations to sign a petition asking lawmakers to take action.
3. Gather information.
Gather and present information to legislators about incidents that have happened in your state that apply, such as officiating assaults, etc.
4. Get on the phone or internet.
Contact your legislators and meet with them to present information that may help to pass the legislation.
5. Follow up and don’t give up.
After talking and meeting with your legislators, follow up with a thank you letter and tell them that you will follow their progress. Keep the topic in the forefront. Even if a proposed bill doesn’t pass the first time, it doesn’t mean it won’t pass in the future. Take time to gather more support and continue to pursue the legislation at the next opportunity.