No boosted penalty for assaulting Iowa sports’ whistle blowers

DES MOINES — The 2020 Iowa legislature will not boost the penalties for assaulting referees, umpires, line judges and other sports officials.

Bills on the topic were permanently tabled in the House and the Senate this week. Representative Tom Moore of Griswold retired this summer after officiating high school softball games for the past 30 years. He was a high school wrestling official for 38 years.

“Veteran officials don’t usually have very many problems,” Moore said. “It’s usually the younger officials and fans feel they can intimidate whether it be verbally or, God forbid, physically.”

But Moore said “assault is assault” and it makes no sense to single out sports officials as a protected class.

“Where do we stop? It could go teachers, legislators, newspaper reporters and radio announcers or reporters,” Moore said. “Where do we stop?”

Currently state law does call for enhanced penalties for assaulting police, fire fighters, prison guards, nurses and doctors and some state employees — including tax collectors. Moore said adding sports officials to that list won’t really address the state’s referee shortage.

“We’re seeing a change in our society that leads to more confrontation with officials,” Moore said. “It’s hurting the overall athletic scene.”

Moore was Griswold’s football coach for 23 years. He said proposed liability protection for the decisions referees make during a game was another problem area in the bill he helped shelve at the statehouse.

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