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How — and Why — NJ High School Sports Association Is Taking on ‘Trash Talking’

John Mooney, (courtesy NJ Spotlight)

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

The new rules have won national attention — and captured the talk-radio airwaves – with their requirements that eliminate 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 of the measures said the new rules are an expansion of existing sportsmanship bylaws, more borrowing language from the state’s new anti-bullying law than actually extending it.

But clearly they come at a time of heightened awareness to bullying, particularly given the state’s new law and the high-profile suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after experiencing online harassment. The new guidelines also are rooted in an incident that occurred last year between two Bergen County high school football teams, in which accusations of race baiting were widely reported.

“We dealt with that, and when they played again there were no incidents” said Steve Goodell, attorney for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletics Association who spearheaded the new language.

“But we wanted to make absolutely clear that these [sportsmanship] rules applied to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation,” he said. “Trash talking, we’re not banning that. We’re saying that race baiting, attacking one’s race or ethnicity, that’s out of bounds.”

Read more at NJSpotlight.com

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

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