Assault Legislation: Steps You Can Take
NASO encourages all of its members to join its efforts to support legislation that protect sports officials from assaults. If your state is not among those that have tougher legislation in place to protect the men and women who officiate, you can get involved. (See states that have legislation.) Follow these five steps to lead the way in legislative efforts in your state.
1. Involve Your Local Association
Share NASO’s model legislation with your local association members and discuss the importance of such legislation with them at a regular meeting. It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the issue with your fellow officials. The issue is not about arguments in games; rather, it is about fans, coaches and players having the intent to cause physical harm during incidents that occur before, during or after a game as they relate to the officials’ duties.
A little research is required on your part. Contact your state legislature’s library or website and find out what the current assault laws are. For example, you may already have a law that makes assaulting a public official (such as a police officer, firefighter, teacher, etc.) a felony or serious misdemeanor. If so, you do not need to write a whole new law. Seek to amend the existing law to include sports officials.
2. Circulate a Petition
Circulate a petition among your members and others in the sports scene who are registered voters calling for your local state representative and senator to consider introducing legislation. The more people you have sign the petition, the stronger your position.
3. Gather Information
Gather as many reports of incidents in your state as possible. While no organization is formally collecting such information, that is vital to successfully presenting your case before legislators. They want to know just how common the problem has become. Try to localize the issue as much as possible by providing your own local clippings, news reports and letters citing assaults in your state. The closer to home you can make the issue the better. The more proof you have – the more likely you’ll succeed.
4. Get on the Phone and Internet
Phone your legislators and tell them you would like to meet and present them with a packet of information that can help them pass important legislation.
As part of that effort, target a well-respected member of the legislature. Work with someone who has many years of experience and might possibly be on the judiciary committee. Seek out individuals who are interested in the cause.
Also, find out if there are any legislators or lobbyists in your state who officiate. They can give you some valuable insight and possibly assist in dealing with the issue.
Remember, the web is a great communication tool to make initial contacts. But then it is critical to make voice contact via the phone, and face-to-face contact will help even more.
5. Follow Up
Don’t simply meet with the legislators and then go away. Follow up with thank you letters and keep reminding them that you are following their progress. Offer to provide officials who can speak to the issue at committee hearings. Keep your members informed of what’s happening in your own newsletters and at meetings. Invite one of the legislators to come and speak at one of your meetings.
The more you keep after them, the greater your chances of success.