LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Thursday, the House of Representatives proposed a bill to change the law concerning the abuse of athletic officials.

House bill 1496 would change the Class A misdemeanor charge for abusing a referee to a Class D felony if you injure or have physical contact that is abusive, harassing or offensive with an official.

A Class D felony could lead to up to 6 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The bill says, “a person commits abuse of an athletic official if, immediately prior to, during, or immediately following an interscholastic, intercollegiate, or any other organized amateur or professional athletic contest in which athletic contest official is participating.”

This means the bill would apply to anyone at any sporting event in the state.

Friday, we went to the state wrestling tournament at the Jack Stephens Center and a little league basketball game at the Penick Boys and Girls Club. 

Pat Smith and Greg Hatcher with the Arkansas Wrestling Academy says, “anything we can do to protect our officials is great.”

“We’re not going to be able to get officials if we don’t give them respect,” Hatcher said. 

At the Penick Boys and Girls Club, Marcus Harris is in stripes.

He’s been a little league ref for 10 years and says “it’s long overdue” for not having a bill to protect officials. 

“You don’t want to have to be looking over your shoulder for a crazy parent or crazy coach,” Harris stated.

Harris says he’s never been assaulted while officiating but knows there have been many instances across the country. So, he hopes the bill is passed.

“I hope before they react, they think I can go to jail for this and it isn’t going to be a slap on the wrist,” he said. 

Andre Bradley, athletic director of the boys and girls club says a commotion during a game led him to hire armed security.

“the crowd just got overly excited and it spilled onto the court to where I had to go out and stop games,” Bradley said

But if passed, the proposed bill might put an end to situations like that.

House Bill 1496 will be before the house judiciary committee at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28.