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Referee pushes back against parent verbal abuse during games

Posted at 10:33 PM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 23:33:00-04

TULSA -- A Tulsa soccer referee is trying to put a stop to parents verbally abusing referees during games. 

There have been many incidents across the nation where parents have gotten verbally and sometimes physically abusive toward game referees. 

Chris Emerson, a parent, said, “Everyone wants their kid to be the superstar and everyone wants their kid to be the one to make the big play. So, when something happens but doesn’t go their kid’s way, they can sometimes get a little bit out of hand.”

Brian Barlow, a referee, added, “It ranges from being called a fat, terrible, ugly, balding, old ref to being told that you suck to being told that you don’t understand the rules.”

Barlow has had his fair share of parent confrontations, including one last weekend that got a dad kicked out of a game. 

Barlow recalled, “As he was leaving the game, he gave a double middle bird finger and made some sexual innuendos toward me in front of 14-year-old players.”

The referee says it's an epidemic that getting out of control. He explained, “It makes everyone uncomfortable when someone is so toxic that they can’t hold their own emotions down and can’t control their own demeanor because they didn’t like a call or they felt like we should blow the whistle, or a little Sally is down on the field and she’s got a boo-boo. Guess what. It’s soccer. Sally is going to get kicked.”

When asked if he could see himself reacting in a verbally abusive way, Emerson said, “I would hope that I wouldn’t do that as a dad, but sometimes if your son is the one that gets fouled really hard and you see that they’re hurt, you want the best for your son. You want those refs to pay attention and call it the right way.”

Barlow claims out-of-hand parents have caused a referee shortage and younger referees don't want to work games. So, he's taking action. 

He explained, “We're initiating a plan called STOP, which stands for Stop Tormenting Officials Permanently.”

He's joining with other referees, coaches, and other organizations to get laws on the books that regulate unruly parents during games. 

It's an awareness he's raising through a grassroots movement and through his Faccebook page Offside

Emerson said, “I would hope that everyone would remember that it is about the kids. It’s not about the parents. It’s about them enjoying the game. If we can all kind of take a big, deep breath and relax a little bit on the sidelines, it would be just a much more enjoyable experience for everybody.”

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