By JAMES LACEY
---- — The abuse of New York state high-school referees and officials by parents, fans and others is so common as to almost “come with the territory” or job.
However, there is another, less-publicized abuse that occurs to individual referees by their local officiating associations, whereby, instead of just training and ensuring professional behavior by the refs, these locals too often conduct vendettas and or untoward actions toward refs for strictly personal or political reasons.
The problem is acerbated by the New York State officials organizations for 31 different sports, who have their procedures written by and are contracted to oversee each referee association by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
Even though they receive dues from each referee and have appeal procedures in place, the state officials group too often fails to protect the aggrieved official and usually sides with the local boards regardless of circumstances.
Mysteriously, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, in my opinion, in a gross dereliction of its duties and responsibilities, claims it has no control over the state officials organization, which they hire.
The association refuses to provide any recourse to the individual referee, creating a vacuum of controls and accountabilities that allows the local officiating associations to do whatever they want with basic impunity, to the detriment of not only refs but high-school athletes, athletic contests, schools, fans, etc.
My personal, 10-year saga resulted in a New York State Supreme Court action against all 13 involved parties. Hence my ultimate “cause “ is to enact three-fold changes:
1. To protect every New York state individual referee (official) and provide each with real recourse when unjustly wronged by the local.
2. Make all local associations and state referee associations accountable. Make New York State Public High School Athletic Association do its duty and be responsible by overseeing and controlling the local groups’ actions when needed and justified and especially when individual officials’ rights have been trampled.
In light of the recent death of a referee in Utah, New York state sports officiating groups have, above all, the responsibility and duty to ensure the athletes’ safety as well as the safety of their member officials by forcefully controlling the game and especially by targeting overly aggressive and dangerous play.
In my opinion, New York state’s current lack of state-level, hands-on control of officiating groups endangers everybody.
If you are an individual referee or association who has a story to tell or want to assist this “cause,” email me at email@example.com.
Change is direly needed.
James J. “Jungle Jim “ Lacey, who lives in Schuyler Falls, is a former phys ed/health and science teacher, a coach of college and youth sports for more than 20 years and a Section VII official for more than 30 years.