Ohio legislator wants to protect refs from violent fans with felony punishment

A bill in the house would raise any assault against an official to the level of a felony.

Ohio legislator wants to protect refs from violent fans with felony punishment
An Ohio State Representative has introduced legislation that would protect officials from physical abuse. Source: AP Images

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - An Ohio State Representative is sponsoring legislation that would ensure jail time for anyone convicted of assaulting an official before, during or after a sporting event.

State Rep Joe Miller, who is also a basketball official, is a sponsor of House Bill 208, which would increase any violence against an official to a fifth-degree felony.

“We’re noticing an uptick in assaults and that is a problem, and that’s not what the culture should be,” Miller said.

Miller is concerned about the health and well-being of officials and referees, and he’s alarmed about the dwindling number of basketball officials across the state--many of whom are leaving the sport because of verbal abuse from fans.

Often, that verbal abuse can escalate to a physical confrontation and Miller sees that as unacceptable.

“I want to let the officials know that got their backs and I want to let the people in the stands know there is no room for this,” he said.

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