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New Jersey Seeks to Ban Trash Talking at High School Sporting Events – Good Idea or Just Dopey? [POLL]

Brick Memorial takes the field for their game against Neptune (Townsquare Media NJ)
Brick Memorial takes the field for their game against Neptune (Townsquare Media NJ)

The day is at hand when some legislator will come up with a bill mandating that everyone be nice to everyone else.

Direct nothing toward anyone that’s going to hurt their feelings and the like.

It is in this spirit that there’s a move on to curb trash talking between members of opposing high school sports teams; saying it’s a part of the anti-bullying mandate of the state.

Here’s the deal, according to this:

New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law has stepped onto the sports field, with the state’s high school athletics association taking steps to clamp down on “trash-talking” that goes too far.

The new rules have won national attention with their requirements for referee warnings for any talk or gestures that demean fellow athletes, officials, or spectators, specifically citing those targeting race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

Advocates say the new rules are an expansion of sportsmanship bylaws, more borrowing language from the state’s new anti-bullying law than actually extending it.

The new guidelines also are rooted in an incident last year between two Bergen County high school football teams in which accusations of race-baiting were widely reported.

Steve Goodell, attorney for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletics Association, who spearheaded the new language said, “we wanted to make absolutely clear that these [sportsmanship] rules applied to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.” “Trash talking, we’re not banning that. We’re saying that race-baiting, attacking one’s race or ethnicity, that’s out of bounds.”

The NJSIAA announced the new regulations two weeks ago, saying it was adding a few lines to its bylaws to make clear that bullying on the field is no more tolerated than bullying off it.

“High school sports enhances and supports education,” said Steven Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA. “Obscene gestures, profanity, or unduly provocative language or action toward officials, opponents, or spectators won’t be tolerated in the classroom or the field of play.”

Currently, the rules read that “any student-athlete or coach who is cited before, during, or after an interscholastic event for unsportsmanlike and flagrant verbal or physical misconduct will be disqualified from participating in the next two regularly scheduled events, or in the case of football, disqualified from the next game.”

According to the NJSIAA:

“There will be no tolerance for negative statements or actions between opposing players or coaches. This includes taunting, baiting, berating opponents, or ‘trash-talking’ or actions which ridicule or cause embarrassment to them. It also includes harassing conduct related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.

There seems to be a little bit of a disconnect there. Steve Goodell, the NJSIAA lawyer says “Trash talking, we’re not banning that”…yet reading the above statement from the NJSIAA itself leads one to believe just the opposite.

The report continues:
State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), chief sponsor of the state’s anti-bullying law, said she had no problems with the new sportsmanship rules as a natural extension of her legislation.

Still, there are a few twists. For one, Vainieri Huttle’s law calls for internal school investigations of any incidents of bullying, while the new rules make the NJSIAA the first investigator, with the discretion to pass along incidents to the state Attorney General’s Office.

For another, the sportsmanship rules apply to all high school sports – at public or private institutions – while the anti-bullying law only applies to public schools.

Vainieri Huttle acknowledged that the athletic field did not come up while she was developing her law, but said she was glad her measure had been extended in this way. She hopes to soon have an “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights 2″ that will apply to colleges and universities, too.

Let me ask you this.
Besides there being a little confusion over “trash talking” will be tolerated or not, do you feel the NJSIAA and Assemblywoman Vainieri-Huttle are overthinking this just a little?

Who’s to be the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes “trash talking”; and don’t you feel this adds an unnecessary layer of enforcement to something that’s been part and parcel of “playing the game?”

Is it possible that the spectators booing members of an opposing team will be the next banned activity?

It’s one thing to have a moral imperative to be sportsmanlike; quite another for it to be mandated it from on high, with layers of enforcement added to make sure the regulations are adhered to.

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