Sports officials are not perfect. Sometimes they miss a call.  Despite that, who among us would want officials abused, intimidated, or assaulted for doing their job? No one! 

In fact, a Kentucky law is being proposed to protect sports officials and referees.  Rep. Randy Bridges, R-Paducah, and Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, propose changes to the crime of intimidation of a sports official, and increasing the penalty. Under current state law, assault of a sports official is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail. The two lawmakers’ proposal treats any instance of assault of a sports’ official as a Class D felony,

Paid or volunteer, officials are entrusted to accurately and fairly call the game as they see it.  They are supposed to know, understand and uniformly enforce the rules of the game. Sports officials are expected to be professional and display high standards of integrity.  Naturally, some officials are better at their job than others.

While reading about the proposed new rules, I suddenly realized, journalists have much in common with sports officials. Who would think it fair if referees were obviously partial to the home team? That would be stupid. It would destroy the integrity of the game, and ultimately, could undermine the sport itself.  So, good officials blow the whistle against both sides.  So do good journalists. We report facts, good and bad.

Kentucky organizations support sports officials. The KHSAA has the right to fine a coach who publicly even criticizes an official in the mainstream media, or on social media. Plus, now our state may soon make it a felony to intimidate one.  

But, instead of introducing bills to protect journalists, here in Kentucky, reporters are under attack more than ever.  Political leaders at the highest levels have called journalists ‘enemies of the state,” when they don’t like the story the journalist writes. As a result of watching national and state leaders attack journalists, now even local officials have joined the fray. Recently, some local leaders have publicly called a carefully worded, fully vetted and 100% factual article written in this newspaper “Fake news.”

So, I agree it’s important to respect and protect the officials who call sports games. It protects the integrity of the game. Likewise, political leaders should protect and support journalists too. Our local news team at the Advocate work hard to call it like they see it.

We don’t write fake news, and we appreciate your support!

Jay is the majority owner of Nolan Group Media, which includes eight weekly newspapers and a printing facility covering Southeastern Kentucky

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