Bad behavior at youth sports could lead to fines in Minnesota

Bad behavior by adults at youth sports games could get expensive in Minnesota.

A bill heard Tuesday calls for a $1,000 fine for anyone interfering with refs before, during, and after games.

Its House author, Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) has been a youth sports referee for almost 20 years, and he says a confrontational game last year made him think about quitting for the first time.

"We all know that these behaviors threaten the safety of our contests," said Erich Martens, executive director of the Minnesota State High School League.

From flying food to fists, youth sports referees are sometimes the targets of unsportsmanlike conduct from players, coaches, and parents.

"I have heard horror stories," Rep. Huot told the House state and local government finance and policy committee. "And so we want to just send the message."

The message could come in the form of a $1,000 fine for unruly behavior targeting youth sports officials and a special gross misdemeanor for a physical attack.

Rep. Huot tells FOX 9 that just putting it on the table may have helped maintain calm at a recent game.

"The parents were chatting about it," he said. "But I got to tell you that that stadium was pretty quiet."

Physical attacks are still rare, but Rep. Huot says the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission estimates there are almost 1,000 incidents of interference every year in the state.

"We have to do something," he said. "This is pathetic. Even if we got 200 or 100, that’s terrible."

Rep. Huot is also a referee, and he says officials can handle the common criticisms aimed their way.

But worse forms of harassment are common enough to be partly responsible for the Minnesota State Referee Committee losing 60% of all new referees within a year.

"There are multiple reasons why," said Troy Cohrs, state referee administrator for the MSRC. "But I do know that, anecdotally at least, the refs tell me it's just not worth the hassle. And that's frustrating."

The bills would also apply to activities like quiz bowl, debate, and dance competitions.

The bill is on hold for now, though, and possibly until 2025 while they look into how much it would cost to conduct investigations.