Nationwide Movement to Stop Abuse by Parents at Youth Sporting Events. Youth Soccer’s “Bounty Hunter Referee” is calling for a ‘Wordless Weekend’ at Youth Events September 22-23
Parents and fans can cheer and “let the players play and coaches coach”
TULSA - After a spike in the number of parents and spectators across the country verbally and physically abusing referees, an Oklahoma youth soccer referee is calling – timeout. Brian Barlow received national and international attention as the “Bounty Hunter Ref” for paying $100 for videos he shares on his Offside Facebook page, that show parents and fans behaving badly. Now Barlow wants to take it a step further with a ‘Wordless Weekend’, September 22 - 23, 2018. During all youth sporting events he is calling for parents and other fans to only cheer – not jeer – during youth sports. It also means parents are not allowed to berate the referees, yell at coaches or even try to “coach” their kids from the sidelines.
“We get that you want your kids to win. But we’re the officials. So, cheer. But don’t boo. Pump your fists in the air if you’re excited. But let coaches coach. Let the players play and we’ll referee,” Barlow said.
Barlow is asking parents and all spectators to not use any words during youth sports that September weekend because of pervasive abuse from parents and coaches. The harassment is so bad, more than 70 percent of new referees quit within the first three years, resulting in a widespread referee shortage nationwide, according to the National Association of Sports Officials. The main reason – badly behaving parents.
Worldwide, fans spit at, berate and savagely attack referees. In Detroit in June 2014, an enraged player, who didn’t like a call, punched referee John Beiniewicz in the head and he died two days later from his injuries. His widow Kris Bieniewicz has joined Barlow’s effort for a ‘Wordless Weekend.’
“If one person thinks twice about their behavior by keeping quiet during a sporting event, then it’s worth it, and John didn’t die in vain,” said Bieniewicz. The player who fatally punched John Bieniewicz in the head in 2015 received a plea deal for eight years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Barlow hopes youth sports teams, fans, parents and players will spread the word about not using words to create one peaceful weekend.
“For just two days, pretend like we’re showing you a yellow card, a warning not to say anything to anyone on the field. We want you to relax and enjoy the event. Treat everyone around you, especially the referees and other fans, with courtesy and respect,” Barlow said.
Last year, the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association created a policy called ‘Silent September,’ which forbids fans to speak and cheer for a month. The association says it was a success and helped draw attention to the abuse issue.
Barlow is holding abusive parents and fans accountable by “video shaming” them on his Facebook page Offside. The referee of 14 years pays people $100 for videos he posts showing bad behavior at sporting events. He also launched the STOP program (Stop Tormenting Officials Permanently). He provides training and kits to teams and clubs. They receive red stop signs to put up at youth events, training and conduct agreements for parents and teammates to sign.
For more information or media interviews:
Diane White: Diane@DianeWhitePR.com 918-770-3905
Robyn Aydelott: Robyn@DianeWhitePR.com 918-779-5771