Does Your Ticket to a Sporting Event Entitle You to Heckle Officials?

I have to get this off my chest. I’m curious to hear if you agree with me or if I’m being too impractical.

I was recently at a college basketball game with my two kids. We were sitting in the front row, enjoying the game, but behind us in the bleachers were a few older women who were, shall I say, passionate. They were very vocal. They were yelling since the start of the game, which would be great if they used their loud voices to cheer for their team or the player they were they to support.

Instead, they used their voices to yell at the referees…the ENTIRE GAME. It started in the first quarter and got worse as the game progressed.

Most of the time it was trying to tell the official how #25 kept carrying the basketball (the correct term would be double dribbling, by the way). Nearly every sequence down the floor, they felt the need to remind these veteran officials they were not performing up to their duties.

However, the one instance that really caught my attention is when one of the women yelled to the official that it was, “time to retire, Ref!! Time to retire!” That’s when I decided, perhaps against my better judgement, to engage with these women. I turned and said, “Really?!” That’s it. The reason I did is because it became personal. Yelling about calls, or missed calls, I can understand. I don’t agree with it! I think it’s rude and disrespectful, but I can understand it as part of the game. But once you get personal, and yell out the equivalent of “You’re old and need to quit!” is too far and someone needed to check their behavior.

When I engaged with these women, one of their main justifications was that they paid for their tickets (a whopping $5), so that gave them the unalienable right to speak however they wish to the officials.


Your tickets give you the right to enjoy the game and cheer for your team. Your tickets, whether $5 or $500, do NOT entitle you to disrespect people trying to do a very difficult job, like officiate a sporting event. There is no other profession where people show up, berate your every perceived mistake and sometimes make personal insults, and it’s totally acceptable.

It’s not acceptable. I understand that yelling at officials has been a part of sports for a long time, but it needs to end.

The fact is there is an official shortage in almost every sport at any level. That is in no small part due to how they are treated from fans in the stands. There needs to be a higher standard of behavior at our sporting events, whether professional, collegiate or youth (especially youth!). We can’t have these sporting events without officials, so it’s time we treat them with more respect, whether you think they are doing a good job or not!

If you think officiating is bad, then OK…be a part of the solution. Sign up to be an official! Otherwise, use your voices to cheer and be a positive voice rather than a jagbag in the seats.
The silver lining here is that I was able to use the poor, childish behavior from these “adults” as a teaching moment for my two kids on how to act in public.