Viral video shows fight between parent, ref at 8th-grade basketball game

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 1:12 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A video showing a fight during a Fort Wayne basketball game provided to 21Alive by JB Productions has gone viral on social media.

The video shows a spectator and a referee fighting. We’re told the video was taken during a basketball game at SportONE Parkview Fieldhouse during a tournament Saturday.

21Alive has reached out to officials with SportONE and Parkview Health to learn more information about the circumstances surrounding the video. A representative with Parkview tells 21Alive to expect a news release later on Monday. A representative with Gym Rats Basketball, the organization affiliated with Saturday’s tournament, has repeatedly denied our request for comment about the video.

The video shows a spectator shove past a woman to walk onto the court. He then confronts the referee. The man shooting the footage for JB Productions tells 21Alive he took the camera off the fight for a very short time, realized what was happening, and then focused back on the fight. He explains that’s why you see an edit in the video.

The video that went viral on Twitter shows the referee tackling the spectator as the spectator tried to throw punches. Several players and coaches are then seen trying to separate the two men.

21Alive News spoke with Northeastern Indiana Officials Association President Joe Rudolph about the video, who says aggression towards refs is not a new problem.

“It’s hard because we’ve reached a level where we’re all fed up. We’re tired. We’re tired of the treatment of officials,” Rudolph says. “When fans take it personally, and they want to either come on the floor or make threats from the stands, that’s when things really change, that’s when things get pushed over the line, over the limit.”

Rudolph says the referee in the video is a member of the association.

“He’s well-known. He’s well-respected. For him to take the abuse that he did over the weekend, it’s disheartening,” he says.

Rudolph says the incident happened during an 8th-grade boys’ basketball game between Team Robinson 2027-PINK and the Blue Water Hurricanes. Rudolph says the spectator who approached the referee was a parent from the Blue Water Hurricanes, which lost the game 48-7.

The coach of Team Robinson tells 21Alive that the parent shown in the video was heckling and degrading his players and the referee throughout the game.

“I don’t know how we prepare for that without help. We need security at SportONE, we need administrators in schools to step up and kind of preempt some of that stuff before the referee has to get involved. Again, let us worry about the on-court stuff but somebody else needs to handle the off-court stuff,” Rudolph says.

He says too many personal insults are directed at officials from the stands.

“I know they have a vested interest. I know they’re fans. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a middle school basketball game that erupted into this incident this weekend,” Rudolph says.

A public information officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department says the department has no record of officers responding to any incidents Saturday at SportONE Parkview Fieldhouse. Stay tuned for updates.

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