A high school football referee who suffered a concussion when he was head-butted by a player told state lawmakers he wants harsher punishment for anyone who harms a sports official.
Scott Bistrek testified Thursday at a Statehouse criminal justice hearing on House Bill 208.
A Dunbar High School player wearing a helmet head-butted Bistrek during an Aug. 31, 2019, during the second quarter of a home game against Roger Bacon High School, an incident that led to the rest of the game being canceled.
Bistrek also appeared Sept. 18 before the Ohio Senate, when he testified the Dunbar player was called for a personal foul penalty after pushing a Roger Bacon player after the whistle.
Then and now, Bistrek said he wants such a crime to be a felony.
“I struggled with the decision to stop officiating all together, something I’ve been doing for over 20 years,” Bistrek told our news partner WHIO-TV on Thursday. “And after one horrible incident I was wondering if I could go back. Especially football, a sport I love.
“As officials, we expect to be yelled at,” he told WHIO. “Our family expects it and you learn to deal with it. You do not expect to be assaulted or threatened — both of which I believe are happening more lately.”
A representative from the Ohio High School Athletic Association testified there were no assaults in his first five years, but there have been a dozen incidents in the past two years, WHIO reported.
One of the latest incidents occurred last week, when a woman went after an official during the Franklin-Oakwood basketball game. WHIO reported the woman in the Franklin-Oakwood incident is not being charged criminally.
>> RELATED: Dunbar football player could be tried as adult
However, the former Dunbar player next appears in early March in Montgomery County Juvenile Court. It’s possible the case will be transferred to adult court.
Bistrek has said he wants the young man to get an education but doesn’t want him to be allowed to play high school sports anymore.
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