Referee Harassment in Sports

Referee Harassment in Sports

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Referee's may have the toughest job in sports. They are rarely praised and often criticized, but can they be bullied. The traditional definition doesn't really apply, but referee harassment is a very real thing. Kevin McCullough is a referee at Suburban Ice in East Lansing and says that USA hockey outlines clear rules for referee treatment.

"USA hockey has their zero tolerance policy, which means for any talk-back at all, you can get a misconduct penalty which means you're out for the game," McCullough said.

But many times he says that he'll give players a break in the heat of the moment.

"We try to be a little more lenient with the players out there," he said. "I don't mind if they say a few words back to me. I understand if they get a little heated, and some emotion running, and that's okay if it doesn't get out of control."

He says that physical contact of any kind is never tolerated.

"There is zero tolerance for any aggression towards referees," he said. "It's up to the referee. His discretion. There are two referee's out there and they can talk about it. He can get up to a match penalty, which is the most severe penalty in USA hockey. That means that you are immediately suspended from all of USA hockey, no matter where you are in the country, until you have a hearing. That's done by the local MAHA board, which is the Michigan Association for hockey. Then they deem your punishment. It could be as severe as the rest of your life you are suspended, or you could just get time served. So it's very severe."

McCullough says that being a referee has changed his perspective when he's on the ice, playing.

"It's calmed me down a lot," he said. "Especially back in high school. I used to get out of control on a couple things, really talking back to the refs and what not, and now I realize how hard of a job it is. So I'm talking and saying thank you to these guys when they're doing my games now."

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