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Respect the refs

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By Gerard Flanagan

Without the officials, sports just wouldn’t be possible, yet, despite their importance, sports officials are increasingly becoming the target of unwarranted — and in some cases harmful — attacks, both verbally and physically.

As FHS Executive Director Karissa Niehoff said, “The time has come for everyone involved in the game to ‘pump the brakes’ as it relates to conduct at games, particularly, the parents who attend.” Niehoff and Julian Tackett, commissioner of the KHSAA, penned a guest editorial jointly that appeared in the Courier-Journal in late January and other publications across Kentucky. You can read the full editorial at this link: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/01/25/fan-abuse-drivi....

I’ve read about the increasing harassment officials are being subjected to, and I was upset by it. However, I was particularly disturbed to hear a youth basketball coach had assaulted a referee during a tournament in Paducah earlier this month, inflicting serious injuries.

Coach Keyon Menifield, of Flint, Michigan, was arrested and jailed on charges of assault of a sports official. The charges were later upgraded to a felony. The official he assaulted, Kenny Culp, of Paducah, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for a broken collarbone, a crack in his sinus cavity, a concussion and bruising on his face. Thankfully, I heard Culp was released after nine days at Vanderbilt.

What could possibly have caused Menifield to go into such a blind rage and inflict such serious injuries on an official? There’s no justification for this. Menifield’s actions are nothing short of abhorrent, and I hope he faces severe punishment for this assault on someone just doing their job. Menefield should never be allowed to coach ever again.

We expect coaches to be role models for our players, and we expect them to set an example of sportsmanship, respect for others, as well as oneself and maturity. We also expect coaches to set the tone for how officials ought to be treated: with respect. Disagreements between coaches and officials will arise. The officials will make a call the coach feels should have gone the other way. However, those disagreements should be handled professionally.

Spectators also need to learn to treat officials with respect. Quit heckling officials over every single call. You’re not truly enjoying the game if you are so preoccupied with letting the officials know how you feel. I’m fairly certain they don’t care how you feel about the offensive foul they called earlier. Your jeering and yelling isn’t going to suddenly make the officials call the game in your team’s favor. Officials are there to call the game fairly, which means some calls won’t go your way. Get over it. That’s life. Move on to the next play. Some calls will go your way. Celebrate a little, but move on to the next play.

In the heat of the moment, a quick reaction — in approval or disapproval — is understandable. It’s okay to show some emotion during competition, but keep your emotions in check. Don’t do something you’ll regret after the fact, like Menifield.

Honestly, the biggest issues at play in this discussion are common decency and respect for a fellow human being. Officials are people, too. They have family. They have emotions. They have feelings, and they deserve respect. What they don’t deserve is harassment and assault.

For the sake of everyone, respect the refs.