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New Rules Curb Trash Talking in New Jersey High School Sports

We see it all the time and at every level—athletes talking trash to one another, fans taunting players and other fans, referees and umpires getting screamed at—and sometimes it can get ugly. 

But now, the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association and the State Attorney General are cracking down on trash-talking in high school sports, with new rules that require all reported incidents to be reported to the new Jersey Division of Civil Rights as well as two-game suspensions for violators. 

“High school sports enhances and supports education,” NJSIAA Executive Director Steven Timko said in a prepared statement. “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.” 

The NJSIAA announced it would enforce new rules governing harassment related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and religion during athletic contests earlier this month. 

From now on, all incidents will be reported to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, which may then investigate the incident. 

Additional penalties may be immediately assessed, according to a release issued by the NJSIAA. 

Any athlete or coach who violates those rules is disqualified from participating in the next two events. In the case of football, they are disqualified from participating in the next game. 

The rules apply to participants and spectators at all public, parochial and private schools that are NJSIAA members, and require officials to report violations to the NJSIAA. There are a total of 500 NJSIAA member schools. 

The rules fall in line with the State’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and were developed by the association with the support of the Coalition for Racial Equality in Education, according to the NJSIAA. The Coalition for Racial Equality in Education is a group of organizations and individuals who combat discrimination in education. 

“High school sports should be about building character and instilling life-lessons about grace, courage, teamwork, and adversity,” Acting-Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “Sometimes, we lose sight of those lessons on the field and in the stands. I thank the coalition for bringing the issue to our attention, and the NJSIAA for taking steps to address an important concern. We stand ready to work with both groups to ensure compliance with the new rules, going forward.” 

The NJSIAA currently addresses sportsmanship in Article IX of its by-laws. 

Section F specifically states: 

“In addition to the NJSIAA disciplinary action, any violations of our sportsmanship rule, including, but not limited to disqualifications in the area of racial, ethnic, gender bias, will result in the NJSIAA contacting and working directly with the Conference and Community Agency (Human Rights/Civil Rights Group) which focuses in on this important aspect of social behavior as it relates to athletics.” 

Rules also cover physical abuse, obscene gestures, profane or provocative language or actions, intentionally inciting others to abusive language or actions and being critical of officials. 

The NJSIAA reminds coaches it is their obligation to remind the players of the rules changes prior to the start of their season.

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