TRENTON, N.J. – Tackling bad behavior at youth sporting events, the Assembly on Thursday passed a bill in Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn’s “Penalty Box Act” to upgrade penalties for assaults against sports officials, coaches or staff.
The bill (A4444/4471) aims to address the reprehensible conduct of adults behaving violently at youth sporting events and eliminate the toxic environment that is prevalent at youth sporting events.
“Adults should be role models for children at sporting events. We know the psychological long-term effects upon children when they observe parents fighting in a home. The harm is no different when children observe toxic behavior among adults at soccer matches, basketball games or at a hockey rink,” said Flynn (R-Monmouth). “There is no excuse for an adult to act in a violent way at a sporting event.”
The bill upgrades penalties for assaults against sports officials, coaches or staff from a simple assault to a fourth-degree aggravated assault if there are no injuries. That crime carries up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000. If the official is injured, the crime becomes third-degree, punishable by imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Last June, a 72-year-old umpire was attacked by a coach during a youth baseball game in Branchburg and suffered a broken jaw and a concussion.
“The goal of the Penalty Box Act is to restore civility to youth sports and address all bad behavior before it escalates to violence. I am pleased that there is bipartisan support to focus on this reprehensible conduct and return the joy of sports to players, coaches and sports officials at sporting events,” Flynn said.
The other portions of the “Penalty Box Act” include anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying policies to reverse the harm caused when kids are subject to, or forced to observe, toxic conduct in athletic settings. That measure (A4486) has been referred to the education committee and will give players an avenue to speak out against these harmful environments.