No Refs No Game; Stop The Violence

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Photo Courtesy of Burnaby Lakers                                                                                                                   

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard some way or another about the way that referees are treated both in lacrosse and in other sports as well. In both the United States and Canada the amount of referees seem to be diminishing each year due to the senseless actions of players, coaches, and fans. The violence and abuse of officials has been going on for much too long and it needs to stop. 

Over the weekend the Ontario Lacrosse Officials Association (OLOA) took a stand by walking out. There were games across the province at multiple levels that were cancelled on Sunday night because the officials simply didn’t show up. It was essentially the officials making their voices heard by going on a strike and expressing that these are not conditions they will work in. 

Senior C did have games on Sunday, the opening night of the new league, because the games started before the whole walkout started. 

The Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) and the OLOA met on Sunday, June 29th to discuss the abuse and start the conversation to find a solution to this ongoing issue. While they did not reach an agreement on Sunday they did come out of the six hour long meeting with numerous ideas for how to solve this issue. 

One of the more popular suggestions seems to be some kind of education. If a player, coach, or even a fan gets a penalty for abusing an official they should either have to take a referee course or ref a lower level game to put their foot in the shoes of the officials themselves and see what it’s like. While there could be flaws there it has been one of the options that many seem to agree with. 

Play in Ontario resumed on Tuesday, July 2nd while senior representatives from the OLA and OLOA meet that evening to further discuss and hopefully reach an agreement. 

The OLA and OLOA released this joint statement on Tuesday afternoon in regards to resuming play, “The decision to staff Ontario’s Junior and Senior box lacrosse games taking place this evening is due to the fact that both the OLA and the OLOA are confident that a resolution can be met with the support of the stakeholders present for this meeting. OLA Commissioners, General Managers and team personnel have expressed their support for the officials throughout this process.”

While a stand has finally been taken and a resolution looks evident it is still baffling as to how we got to this point as a sport. Also, there is reason to believe that if this kind of thing has happened in Ontario it could soon happen in multiple other provinces across Canada. 

If both the OLA and OLOA come to an agreement on a policy that works for both sides and is effective, it might not be long before leagues in other provinces start to pick it up as well. This really could start a movement across Canada and even has potential to trickle down into the United States as well. 

Referee abuse in this game has gone on for too long already and an end needs to come sooner or later. Again, the real question is how did we get to this point as a sport? 

The easiest answer is that nobody was really held accountable for their actions while allowed this abuse to keep on repeating it self and get progressively worse. Also, the penalties for abusing an official aren’t harsh enough that make players, coaches, and even fans think about the consequences before taking action. 

Of course everyone lets their emotions fly during a game and that’s fine every once in a while. But the things that we seen in lacrosse over the past year are absolutely disgusting and so far gone that it’s hard to believe that someone would even think of committing an act the foul. 

To really take it back, there was an official beaten in the Quebec Senior B finals last season so bad that he was knocked out and had to be taken to the hospital. That team was then disqualified and didn’t even get a chance to fight for the right to go to the President’s Cup and represent their league and province. 

When things really came to the forefront of the lacrosse world was during the Minto Cup when the whole Jeff Teat situation went down. If you remember, Brampton head coach Dan Teat was suspended for multiple games, but Jeff Teat’s suspension got appealed and the referees walked out before game two of the series claiming they wouldn’t ref with Teat playing. Now an agreement was made and both sides came out happy, but that whole incident really woke up the lacrosse world. 

Now this season we have seen an official at a Midget C tournament beaten so bad that he had to be hospitalized, cases of officials having to have police escorts out of arenas and off of the reservation, and more.

While all those are bad in their own right, the latest incident last weekend really proved to be the tipping point and sparked this whole movement by the officials in Ontario.

Apparently, after a Senior B game between the Six Nations Rivermen and the Oakville Titans a Rivermen player harassed an official in the parking lot. The player waited for the official in the parking lot, verbally assaulted him, blocked him from leaving the parking lot, and even jump on his car. Now what does that accomplish? Absolutely nothing. 

If it really had to take a a player waiting for an official in the parking lot after a game to spark change, then our sport needs to have a serious culture shock in one way or another. 

While not everyone is that big of a lunatic, it’s the ones that are that make the news. The lacrosse world as a whole needs to embrace the issues that are being brought forward by the OLOA and learn from this whole situation. If we do that then lacrosse as a whole comes out on the other side much better because of it. 

If there are no referees then no game can take place. We all love this game, the creators game as it’s known. Now if you know anything about this history of our beloved sport then you know that this is not what lacrosse is about. Honestly, this is disgraceful to the origins of the game and every thing that game is about. 

As a lacrosse community we are much bigger than this and sooner or later we need to start acting like as well. It’s only a matter of time before change is sparked and when that happens it will be a win for everyone in this game. 

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