NBA Officials Call for Examination of Violence Against Referees

NBRA Support NHL Official Checked By Defenseman

January 29, 2016 – The National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) believes that the recent cross-check on National Hockey League (NHL) linesman Don Henderson by Calgary Flames defenseman Denis Wideman is indicative of a troubling trend in sports: an increase in aggressive behavior and even violence towards referees.

The NBRA supports the NHL officials and all referees in any effort to investigate, prosecute and eliminate assaults on referees. “It is time for everyone that participates in or watches sports to acknowledge this trend of aggression against game officials,” said NBRA general counsel Lee Seham. “As professionals, referees represent an authority that is being blatantly disrespected. As human beings, referees are facing a troubling wave of increased hostility against them for just showing up to work,” said Seham.

In 2013, Barry Mano, president of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) stated that an incident of physical abuse against a sports official is reported about once a week. These assaults do not belong to one sport or group; brutality against officials is happening with alarming frequency in amateur sports and spreading to the professional leagues. “Whatever happened to sportsmanship? We should condemn all physical assaults and excuses for attacks on these very real people,” said Seham. “People seem to forget that – referees are real people.”

“Heckling and verbal taunting have always been obstacles of the job, but intentional physical violence towards referees is escalating each year,” said Seham. “The increasing number of attacks indicate a lack of respect from players, coaches and spectators for the job that referees perform.”

Physical assault of any sports official is inexcusable. The NBRA supports the NHL Referees Association and all referee organizations in instances of this kind. We applaud the NHL in their swift and appropriate response to this act of aggression towards one of their game officials.

“There is an apparent shift from sportsmanship to a culture of impulsive aggression and bullying,” said Seham. “We call on sports management everywhere to enforce higher standards of sportsmanship and more civil behavior in sports competition.”

About the NBRA
Established in 1973, the National Basketball Referees Association represents the 63 active and 16 retired referees of the National Basketball Association. The referees of the NBA seek to advance the quality of sports officiating, athletics and sportsmanship of professional basketball.