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The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press


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You are Being Recorded

In a time full of arguments, debates, and controversy, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and Washington Officials Association (WOA) have introduced a new policy for high school sports: body cams on referees. While definitely a progressive initiative marketed for overall safety of all involved, reactions from players and those affected are mixed.

Referees have always had power in sports – with their whistles, they can influence player discipline, game flow, and ultimately, results. Decisions have always been subjective, though, sometimes coming down to arguments between player and official-arguments which have at times turned confrontational.

That is expected to change this year, as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and Washington Officials Association (WOA) are bringing a new initiative to high school sports refereeing: bodycams.

Starting immediately with basketball, officials around Washington State will be carrying around their own recording device as they referee high school sports games. 

The policy was made to “address ongoing issues with bad behavior, a high volume of ejections, and concerns over the safety of officials,” an announcement from the WIAA said.

The scope of the policy is very broad, though, so WIAA has implemented ways to measure progress throughout the season. 

“We have several years worth of ejection statistics that we will be able to compare to the ejection numbers of the areas where these cameras are in use. We’ll also look at the number of games the officials have these cameras, how many ejections they had, and how many times the cameras were actually activated,” WIAA Assistant Executive Director Justin Kesterson said.

Many across leagues in Washington have noticed similar problems and believe this initiative is necessary.

“I think it might be something we need. I know that many officials have faced a lot of verbal altercations. It’s just something they’re not supposed to put up with,” Liberty High School Athletic Director Matt Stuart said. “This way we can address the issue and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

While this initiative is largely for referees as it intends to increase the safety of their role, it does also impact players.

“I always am respectful when I talk to refs as the captain of the basketball team, but knowing they have body cams on that could be recording me will definitely make me think twice about talking to them,” senior boys’ basketball player Denali Hatcher said.

Others on the girls’ basketball team share a similar confusion surrounding the newfound policy.

“I think it’s just really unnecessary and a waste of money. It seems to me like a very small problem they’re trying to solve,” senior girls’ basketball player Annabelle Le said.

However, player concerns may be unfounded as it is still somewhat unclear how many referees will possess body cams during games.

“As far as I know, the officials who will have body cams are chosen at random. I don’t know how they’re choosing that, but the cameras are not on every official at every single basketball game,” Stuart said.

Additionally, spectators play a large role in the policy. Not only are they included in videos taken, but their actions partially prompted the initiative, and may also be subject to penalty because of it. 

“If there is a situation that violates the discriminatory actions policy, that video can be sent to the school to appropriately address the situation. If it rises to the level of law enforcement involvement, then the footage would be shared with the appropriate authorities,”  Kesterson said.

While this policy is reviewable primarily for those in the state office, schools will sometimes have access to recordings.

Footage will be shared with the schools as necessary, as they will sometimes need to review an ejection if appealed by the school or if law enforcement is involved,” Kesterson said.

However, the impacts this policy has on players, spectators, and coaches may just be beginning.

“The project will start with WOA and continue with soccer, baseball, and fastpitch officials for the remainder of the school year,” an announcement from the WIAA said.

So now, when players and spectators feel the need to argue the validity of a referee’s calls, they should be wary of the recording device which may or may not be capturing every second.



About the Contributor
Tyler Rubenstein
Tyler Rubenstein, Sports Editor
Tyler Rubenstein is a Junior at Liberty High School. He is the Sports Section Editor in Journalism and the DECA Community Outreach Officer. Outside of school, he is also the Co-President of the Issaquah Youth Advisory Board. Other than work, he can be found at the nearest soccer field playing… well, soccer.