Local referees react to video of fight between parent and Fort Wayne official

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 11:13 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - It’s a video that’s now gone viral.

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

A fight between an official and a parent during an eighth-grade basketball game held at the Sport One Parkview Fieldhouse Saturday.

For many, it’s cause for concern. For officials, it’s a trend they’re seeing more of.

“It was kind of unsettling to see that happen,” Troy Jester said. “That they would get out of their seat and go on to the court and approach an official during a game to complain about something.”

Monday, I sat down with Troy Jester, a licensed referee for 10 years, to discuss the video of the incident.

He says fights between fans and referees are happening more often.

“You just have fans that don’t have boundaries, there’s no limit anymore,” Jester said.

Jester has many concerns about the treatment of officials in sports, but his main issue is what incidents like this are teaching kids.

“It sets the example that it’s acceptable and it’s okay,” Jester said. “The official was on the court, that’s where he belongs. There was also someone on the court that did not belong there and that’s going to be a problem every time.”

Jester says, as an official, one of his goals is to help kids grow into better athletes.

James Payne, a fellow referee, agrees and says incidents like this can be a setback for youth sports.

“We want every student athlete to go and have the opportunity to go to the next level and represent, not only Fort Wayne, and not only their schools, but the families and themselves in a positive way, because that’s how we do it here in Fort Wayne,” Payne said.

The abuse officials endure takes its toll. Jester says there’s a shortage of officials right now, in large part because of poor treatment of referees.

He says, without officials, games can’t happen, and, for that reason, he urges parents and fans to be mindful of their actions.

“There’s going to be calls you don’t like, there’s going to be calls you do like,” Jester said. “Let the children play the game, you watch and if this continues it’s going to affect your children’s ability to play that sport.”

Poor treatment of referees isn’t just a local issue, but how bad is it?

In a 2017 survey, the National Association of Sports Officials reached out to more than 17,000 officials. They found the following:

  • 87% of officials have suffered verbal abuse
  • 47% of officials have felt unsafe due to harassment from parents, coaches and administrators

Jester ended his conversation with me by saying it’s something that needs to be largely discussed among parents, coaches and officials.