WIAA increases penalty for fans ejected from athletic contests
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WEAU) - A new rule approved by the membership of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association will increase the penalty for fans who are removed as a spectator of an athletic contest by game officials for poor conduct.
WIAA school membership overwhelmingly approved the change at the WIAA’s annual meeting for 2021 on Wednesday. The amendment to the WIAA bylaws will tack on a ban for fans who are removed from an athletic contest for one additional game due to “flagrant harassment or unsporting conduct.” According to the new rule, fans will be suspended from the next contest of the same sport and level of competition that the ejection occurred in. The vote was 312 to 70 in favor of the change to the bylaw.
A bill is currently being worked on by the Wisconsin Legislature that would create a new statute that addresses the issue of harassment of sports officials. Under the proposed law, Senate Bill 175 in the 2021 state Legislature, the penalty for harassing, intimidating, striking, shoving, or kicking a sports official would become a Class A misdemeanor, and 40 hours of community service work would be added on to the criminal penalty. The proposed law also might require anger management or other counseling for an individual convicted of the crime.
The bill currently has 26 bipartisan sponsors in the Wisconsin Legislature in both the state Assembly and state Senate. The bill was sent to the Wisconsin Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on March 3.
The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor in Wisconsin can be a fine of up to $10,000 or nine months of jail time.
In 2019, the WIAA expressed support for a measure that sought to establish similar penalties.
The rule change also comes at a time when Wisconsin school administrators, like many school administrators around the country, are facing difficulties in finding game officials and referees for athletic contests across all levels of school competition. Nearly half, or about 43%, of sports officials leave the role within their first three years, according to the WIAA.
Nearly half of sports officials responded in a national survey that they feared for their safety in working athletic contests. Additionally, the WIAA said that the majority of officials believe sportsmanship is getting worse.
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