IHSAA Assistant Commissioner reacts to video showing assault on referee

IHSAA Assistant Commissioner reacts to video showing assault on referee
Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A tweet showing the video of a parent verbally harassing and then physically assaulting a referee from a youth basketball game in Fort Wayne has been viewed more than 4 million times.

BACKGROUND: Viral video shows fight between parent, ref at 8th-grade basketball game - Local referees react to video of fight between parent and Fort Wayne official

It has picked up tremendous interest on social media because it highlights a topic many are concerned about, including Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Assistant Commissioner Brian Lewis.

“If we don’t have any officials, we’re not going to play anymore.”

Although the IHSAA was not connected to the weekend altercation in any way, Lewis says what happened Saturday is becoming too common at sporting events.

“Unfortunately, fans have gotten to a point that they’re almost verbally assaulting in a manner that we’ve never seen before,” Lewis said.

The IHSAA has procedures in place to prevent altercations from becoming physical. It is outlined in their sportsmanship campaign.

“We have a lot of protocols in place to try to keep those things from happening,” Lewis said. “We talk about sportsmanship and the behavior of fans and coaches and kids all the time.”

A 2017 survey by the National Association of Sports Officials reached more than 17,000 referees. They found that 87% of officials said they have suffered verbal abuse. 47% of those surveyed said they have felt unsafe due to harassment from parents, coaches, and administrators.

“It is an issue and it’s one of the reasons we have some officials that have chosen no longer to do it,” Lewis said. “To say there isn’t a shortage would be a lie, but it’s obviously something we are keeping an eye on. We’ve got a lot of efforts in place to try to build the number of officials back up.”

Assistant Commissioner Lewis has a reminder for spectators who think about directing their anger toward officials:

“You can call me, and we’ll get you signed up and you can try it for yourself,” Lewis said. “At the same time, we just need to understand they’re out there, they’re giving our kids the opportunity to participate and we need to respect that.”