Minnesota lawmakers consider bill to fine unruly young sports fans $1,000

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Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that seeks to arrest unruly fans at youth sporting events by fining them up to $1,000.

Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, has sponsored a bill (HF33) that would allow the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission to impose a civil penalty on people who disrupt or interfere with youth sports.

The bill is designed to help protect sports officials, coaches and players.

Huot, a part-time umpire, told a committee hearing on Tuesday that being thick-skinned is part of the job and he’s okay with getting booed by fans upset about the calls he makes. . What’s wrong is when fans use verbal threats, profanity, vulgarity or racial epithets towards officials or players, throw objects at them or get physical with them.

This has become a growing problem in youth sports in Minnesota and across the country. Earlier this month, a 45-year-old Detroit Lakes man was charged with assault and disorderly conduct, accused of throwing popcorn at a referee and then ripping his whistle from its lanyard during of a men’s basketball game on January 13.

Related [March 15]: Accusations: Angry fan assaults referee at high school boys’ basketball game

Roger Aronson, attorney for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), said during Tuesday’s hearing that incidents like this are grossly underreported, adding “For each of the Detroit Lakes incidents…there could be to have had 10 of those in other areas that we don’t know about.”

“The goal is to bring some civility back to our youth sports,” Hout said in a statement. “From little league to high school sports, we have to remember that this is a positive experience for the players. The respect and safety of players and officials are essential.

If the bill were to become law, it would impose a $1,000 fine on people who assault a youth sports official and those who intentionally enter or throw something on the playing field, disrupting the event.

Hout said the bill does not remove an unruly fan from being charged with a crime, such as assault or disorderly conduct, if charges are warranted.

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The proposal would also require the Minnesota State High School League and any school board to report when a person is prohibited for assaulting a sports official and allow officials, game organizers, coaches or school principals to report any offense. other violations.

Aronson said the MSHSL supports the bill because it will help the league have an event registry so it has data to show some of the scope of the problem.

The proposal, which the House Finance and Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy Committee approved Tuesday 18-0, will then go to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

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