“C’mon, Ref!”: The Culture of Disrespect in Sports

Photo: Greg Gibson/YouTube

If you follow sports, you have probably seen the video of two high school football players intentionally tackling a referee in the closing minutes of their game last week. Two defensive backs for John Jay High School (San Antonio) were captured on video targeting a referee in retaliation for ejecting a teammate earlier in the game. Both players have been suspended from the football team, and an assistant coach has been placed on administrative leave for supposedly telling his players “that guy needs to pay for cheating us” in response to calls made (or not made) by the referee.

In response to this incident, Dale Hansen provided his characteristically straightforward commentary on the culture of disrespect in sports. Hansen is the sports anchor for WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas/Fort Worth and made a name for himself in 1986 by breaking the story about SMU paying football players. In his “Dale Hansen Unplugged” segment, he states:

It’s part of the American culture in sports now; we have been teaching our kids for a long time that the men and women who referee our games aren’t worthy of our respect. It’s bad enough we yell at the ones who are among the very best at what they do . . . but then we scream at the ones who give up their free time to work a Little League game, too.

And our kids have been watching.

A lot of people are shocked by what those two kids did. I’m almost shocked it doesn’t happen more.

Hansen is right. We have lost respect for those who work hard to keep order in our favorite pastimes. Sports referees are probably some of the most hated and derided people in the American sports landscape.

Hansen’s commentary made me think about two things. First, it took me back to my days as a baseball umpire. I mostly worked games of 9- and 10-year-olds. This is around the time that kids first learn to pitch the ball themselves. The task was doubly difficult because I was usually the only umpire on the field—requiring me to call balls and strikes as well as outs on the base paths—and very few kids could get the ball over the plate. In my attempt to be generous to the pitcher without undermining the integrity of the game, I often received the scorn of the spectators. Of course, my goal was to be consistent for both teams, but try telling that to a parent whose 9-year-old just struck out looking at a pitch that was close enough to hit. What makes it worse is that apart from a few tournaments, I typically umpired church league games. At one time, I turned to a youth minister whom I knew in the stands and asked him to take care of a problem parent from his son’s team. On another occasion I stopped a coach from running out of the dugout on the other side of the field to argue a call that I made 6 feet away from the play. Needless to say, my career as a baseball umpire in college was enough to confirm I didn’t want to pursue it as a career.

Second, Hansen’s commentary has made me stop and think about what I say when I watch sports with my own children. How many times have I complained about an official’s call in front of my kids? Referees and umpires spend years making their way to the highest levels of sports only to have us armchair officials call balls and strikes with the benefit of computer-generated pitch trackers and determine if it was a catch with the aid of multiple camera angles in slow-motion replay. What are we telling our kids when we intentionally disrespect the people who serve in the role exercising authority over the integrity of the game? At the very least, we are telling them that those in authority do not deserve our full respect. At worst, we are saying that officials should be the target of ridicule and blame.

Are there bad officials in sports? Certainly. Accusations have been made against the high school football referee that he directed racial slurs at some of the players. This has been disputed by the referee, and we will probably never know the truth about that. What we do know is that two players used a violent act to retaliate against a referee. But even in the face of a bad call, we must not resort to violence.

What is the Christian response to this situation? While the Bible doesn’t address how to behave around referees at sporting events, it does provide principles for us to apply regarding authority. In 1 Peter 2–3, we read about a few different relationships of authority that give us food for thought. First Peter 2:13–15 reads, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” While this applies directly to the relationship between citizens and government, we can apply the principle to all forms of authority. We should submit ourselves to those in authority because this is the will of God. In the world of sports, those authorities include coaches, managers, owners, and most importantly, referees.

The other biblical principle we can apply comes from Romans 12:17–18 (and a similar statement in 1 Peter 3:9). Paul writes, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” What should we do when we are wronged? Return evil with good. Respect what is right. Even when it is just a game, we can apply this principle.

Honestly, I’m a little worried that Dale Hansen is right. He said, “A lot of people are shocked by what those two kids did. I’m almost shocked it doesn’t happen more.” Are we going to see more violence against sports officials? Have we created a culture of disrespect for referees and umpires? If our kids are paying attention and if our kids imitate our own words and actions—and they do—I’m afraid that we have no one to blame but ourselves for this culture of disrespect. And it is not just in sports.


Dale Hansen, “Hansen Unplugged: On tackling a ref,” WFAA, 9 September 2015.

Jordan Heck, “John Jay coach suspended, reportedly told players ref ‘needs to pay,’” Sporting News, 8 September 2015.

Fort Worth Locals for Life Rally—September 23

Perhaps you have seen the recent Planned Parenthood expose videos and they made you sick. Perhaps you have received a devastating diagnosis about your unborn child and struggled with your doctor’s recommendation to abort. Perhaps you have listened to the political rhetoric about abortion and walked away unsatisfied. Have you ever wanted to do something to support the pro-life cause but didn’t know how? If that is you, then don’t miss a unique opportunity in Fort Worth, TX on September 23.

The Locals for Life Rally will be held on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:00 p.m. Locals for Life was started by a group of ladies that wanted to do something to promote life in light of the growing controversy over the Planned Parenthood videos. These ladies envision a place where pro-life advocates can gather and see all the various local ministries and organizations that work in the pro-life arena. They also want a chance for Christians to pray for these ministries. Finally, they want to provide a point of contact for those who desire to volunteer and support these ministries.

The evening will consist of a time of prayer, testimonies, and encouragement. Some of the speakers include Anthony Moore, pastor of The Village Church Fort Worth; Konni Burton, Texas State Senator from District 10; and Matt Krause, Texas House of Representatives from District 93. There will also be testimonies from real people who made tough decisions for life in the face of very difficult circumstances.

Check out their website at www.localsforliferally.org and follow their updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fwlocalsforlife. If you want to get involved or donate to support the rally, visit the website and click the “Contact Us” link.

Guest Post: 3 Back-to-School Prayers for Your Children

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I have always loved the saying, “Having happy children is good, but a parent’s real job is to mold great adults.” It is with this thought running through my mind that I make my list of prayer requests for my children this school year. Yes, I would love for my children to ace all of their classes, always have someone to sit with at lunch, and received all of the best awards at the end of school. However, would the ease of a typical, great year truly build strong character and emotional endurance? Yes, it would be easy, but muscles are not built by a life of ease. In the same way, my overarching prayer for my children this year is that their spiritual, emotional, and academic muscles will grow stronger and their endurance through instruction and personal relationships will grow deeper and wider. Specifically, these are the three ways I will pray for my children during the 2015-2016 school year.

1. I pray they will grow in their love of God and learn to trust Him more.

My two oldest daughters are believers, and I pray this year they will grow in knowledge of their Savior. I wish this was as easy to measure as their physical growth, but, this year, I will look for opportunities to gauge where they are in their walk with Christ. I pray they see him move in ways they have not experienced before. I know that this cannot always be done with sunny skies and cool breezes. I pray when the hard days come for my children, I can help them turn to Christ for comfort or direction. For my younger children, who are not to the age where they are aware of their need for a Savior, I pray that they will see the Lord more in me. If they are going to be drawn more to Christ, I must be drawn to Christ as well.

2. I pray they will continue to grasp the command of Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

As they do their math homework, as they do their chores, as they help a sibling, I want them to grow in their understanding of God-focused work. The sin tendency within us automatically gravitates towards laziness, but I pray we will learn to counter-act that tendency with a heart towards working for the Lord in whatever we find ourselves doing. In the same vein, the second part of the verse is equally important. Many tasks are attached to immediate rewards, either personal or social. A child does his school work in hopes of a good grade. She completes chores with the expectation of an allowance. He practices an instrument to impress the instructor. Earthly rewards are not bad for children, and in some instances they help spur them on to work harder. However, the insatiable desire to please their Savior and honor Him with a good work ethic is important over a lifetime. Therefore, my prayer this year is that my children may simply grow in their understanding of what it means to “work as unto the Lord.”

3. I pray my children will have opportunities to learn to love well.

At school, there are many different personalities. Each instructor, each peer will have good days and bad days. I pray that my children will flex their love and compassion muscles to show grace to those around them. Honestly, this does not come easily for all my kids, but to love those around us is a way we can point people to Christ in a very tangible way. There is always a reason to be kind and I pray that this year will bring many opportunities for them to do so.

Family Balancing: A New Trend in the Fertility Industry

One of the jobs I held in college was working for a fertilizer and weed control company. It was a family-owned small business with probably 8–10 employees. We met at the owner’s house around 7:00 a.m. to get our trucks and supplies and hit the road to make people’s yards look beautiful. The owner had six daughters who ranged in age from about 2 to 17 at the time. I once asked him what it was like to be the only man in a house with 7 women. His response was classic: “I get to hire all the sons I want and then fire them when I get tired of them.” Even though his response was in jest, it made me work a little harder on the job.

My former boss and other families like his would have been prime candidates for a procedure highlighted in today’s Wall Street Journal—family balancing. Sumathi Reddy reports:

About one out of five couples who come to HRC Fertility, a network of fertility clinics in Southern California, doesn’t need help getting pregnant. Instead, they come for what is called family balancing, or nonmedical sex selection. ‘They usually have one, two or three children of one gender’ and want their next child to be of the other sex, said Daniel Potter, medical director of HRC Fertility, which includes nine clinics.

The testing required to make such selection is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). PGD is most often used during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process to test for genetic diseases, but some clinics are now offering the testing in order for families to select the gender of their babies. Essentially, a woman can have IVF and request that the only embryos injected into her uterus be of a certain gender.

Interestingly, this practice of family balancing through PGD is only legal in a few countries, two of which are the U.S. and Mexico. There is also a difference of opinion among professional organizations on the ethical implications of the practice. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that fertility practices are under “no ethical obligation to provide or refuse to provide nonmedically indicated methods of sex selection.” However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the practice.

As with many aspects of the fertility industry, little thought has been given to the ethical ramifications of such practices. Let us consider two related to sex selection.

First, preferential sex selection for “family balancing” opens the door to eugenics.

The WSJ article notes, “Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine, said family balancing can become a smoke screen for families who want boys. ‘When you are treating the fertile in order to produce something that they prefer as opposed to a disease, I do think you’re really opening the door to a potential slope toward eugenics,’ Dr. Caplan said.”

My family would fall into the category of unbalanced. We have three girls and one boy. We know of other families with even greater imbalance. However, the gift of life is so precious that gender should not matter. I would not trade any one of my girls for another boy even if it meant we had achieved more balance.

Much like the result of the one-child policy in China, sex selection through PGD could end up producing an imbalance in genders for a generation or more. While the article describes the practice of balancing both genders in a family, at least one of the fertility clinics mentioned places no restrictions on sex selection even for the first child. If couples prefer one gender over another, they could select never to have any children of a particular gender.

The practice of eugenics has a long and ugly history (as I noted in a post a few years ago). The net result of American eugenics programs was those deemed undesirable by society were eliminated. What if girls are deemed undesirable because they are weaker? What if boys are deemed undesirable because they are troublesome? The use of preferential sex selection allows families to operate their own small-scale eugenics program.

Second, preferential sex selection for “family balancing” results in the destruction of unwanted children.

In order for PGD-based sex selection to work, IVF must be employed. The IVF process results in multiple fertilized eggs that develop into embryos. Those embryos are then genetically tested for gender and only those of the selected gender would be injected into the uterus. The remaining embryos could be frozen or discarded. If the purpose of sex selection is to provide “balance” to an already “unbalanced” family, then the embryos that do not match the preferred gender would most likely be discarded. In effect, this is the elimination of human life.

Even when they are not discarded, frozen embryo storage has become an ethical dilemma. Most estimates put the number of frozen embryos in the U.S. at over 600,000, although it is uncertain anyone knows the real number. Storage of frozen embryos costs roughly $500–1,000 per year. Many embryos are stored indefinitely or discarded when the responsible party no longer desires to keep them in storage or fails to pay the storage fees.

Since life begins at conception, these unwanted or frozen embryos are children who deserve a chance to live. However, the number of frozen and discarded embryos increases each year, resulting in the destruction of children who are “unwanted.” This is a tragedy that must be addressed. While some have promoted embryo adoption, the better option is probably to reevaluate the whole fertility industry that results in this tragedy.

The saddest line from the article came from the medical director of a fertility clinic in New York. The WSJ reports, “Joel Batzofin, medical director of New York Fertility Services in Manhattan, said about 20% of its patients come for sex selection. Nearly a third of them come from abroad. ‘If people want to avail themselves of the technology, why not?’ Dr. Batzofin said. ‘They’re not hurting anyone. They’re paying for it. [The American Society for Reproductive Medicine] thinks that it’s OK.’”

Technology without a moral compass is dangerous. In the case of “family balancing,” it appears we have crossed the moral line.


Sumathi Reddy, “Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sex,” The Wall Street Journal, 18 August 2015.

Leadership Lessons from Bush 41

The 1988 presidential election cycle is the first one I truly remember. Yes, I was alive during President Reagan’s successful bids for the White House in 1980 and 1984, but I was only 2 and 6 years old, respectively. I have memories of President Bush’s vow where he said, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Although I have studied some aspects of presidential politics back to the days of Washington, my experiential knowledge essentially starts with Bush 41 (except for a memory in fourth grade when my class at school sent a letter to President Reagan asking about his favorite Bible verse—as I recall, it was John 3:16).

I just finished reading 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. It was a fascinating book with an abundance of insights into the life of George H. W. Bush, much of which could only have been told by his eldest son. In fact, I often caught myself verbalizing the words in my head in the younger President’s signature Texas drawl.

The book is full of personal stories about the Bush family. There are glimpses into difficult decisions to pass up opportunities of privilege in order to work his way to the top. Parts of the book are very emotional as the reader gets a picture of what it is like to win and lose on the political stage.

As I read the book, I was struck by some of the insightful lessons on leadership demonstrated in the life of George Bush. These are lessons that are beneficial no matter what your political persuasion may be.

1. Add a personal touch. I was amazed by the constant references to personal, handwritten notes from the desk of the President. At various times throughout the book, the details of a story came from the notes that President Bush had written to others. The recipients of these notes included family, friends, allies, and political enemies.

No one really writes notes any more. We usually say that we are too busy to do so. But how much busier are we today than the President of the United States. Yes, Mr. Bush was in office nearly 30 years ago, but he served during the end of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, and countless other crises in those four years. Yet, he still found time to write personal notes to friends and enemies alike.

Perhaps sending handwritten notes and letters is a relic of previous generations, but I think it is something we should revive. When I receive the occasional note from individuals whom I admire and trust, my spirits are lifted and my loyalty is strengthened. Such a note lets the recipient know he is valued.

2. Treat others with respect. Very few people will ever have the opportunity to develop as many allies and enemies as the President. One of the funniest lines in the book came when George W. Bush recounted his own decision to run for President. He writes, “When reporters would ask how my father would affect the race, I joked that I had inherited half of his friends and all of his enemies” (p. 262). Bush 43 then goes on to state that his father actually had very few enemies. The reason for such seems to be that he treated everyone with respect.

Bush’s career was characterized by difficult relationships. He served as chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal. He wrote a personal letter to President Nixon suggesting that he resign for the good of the country. At the beginning of his term in the White House, he inherited a tense situation with the Soviet Union. Part of that tension was managing his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev. In the midst of the political upheaval in 1989, Bush chose not to celebrate the demise of communism publicly, but instead authored a handwritten letter to Gorbachev proposing a summit. Many now credit President Bush for his work in orchestrating a peaceful end to the Cold War.

One of the most interesting relationships discussed in the book is the one between Bush and President Bill Clinton. Clinton unseated Bush in the 1992 presidential election, but the outgoing President sought to make his successor’s transition as smooth as possible, even leaving a letter of encouragement for him on the desk of the Oval Office. The Bushes welcomed the Clintons to the White House in January of 1993 and then transitioned to private life. However, George W. Bush would later call on the two former Presidents to work together on fundraising for disaster relief following the tsunami in Asia and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike in the United States. These two political rivals formed an enduring friendship through their work together. Bush 43 writes:

The friendship they formed through their shared service has endured. Bill Clinton visits my parents regularly in Maine. Over time, it became clear that Clinton treated Dad as a sort of father figure, perhaps because Clinton never knew his father. Mother took to calling Clinton her long-lost fifth son—or, as Marvin put it, “a brother from another mother.” Clinton embraced the image and started calling himself the black sheep of the Bush family. He joked that Barbara Bush would do anything to claim another President in the family. (p. 271)

The tendencies I see in leaders today is too often self-promotion at the expense of others. Gone are the days of treating everyone—including your enemies—with respect. In fact, I have witnessed some leaders treat allies so poorly that they become enemies. In an age of self-promotion, respect is a forgotten virtue. Perhaps that is because treating others with respect has a tendency to downplay one’s own accomplishments and importance. True leaders, however, know that relationships are more important than self-promotion.

3. Be willing to serve. The history of the Bush family is one of service, long before George Bush ever ran for political office. The generations that preceded him had served their communities and country. George Bush wanted to do the same. He was a pilot in World War II, escaping what would have been an untimely death after being shot down over the Pacific Ocean. He served as a Congressman from Texas, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, Liaison Officer to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, and President of the United States.

In several instances, Bush was asked to leave a comfortable role in order to do something difficult. While serving in China in 1975, Bush received a telegram from President Gerald Ford asking him to leave China and become director of the CIA. The CIA was under investigation by Congress for illegal activity under multiple administrations. The position required approval by the Senate and also had the potential to remove him from future considerations to run for higher political office. However, Bush was determined to serve where he was most needed and accepted the post at the CIA.

Political expediency and personal gain are often the goals of service today. Many “leaders” want to take positions that stand to benefit them the most. What Bush demonstrated was a willingness to serve in roles that benefited those around him the most, even if they included the possibility of derailing his own aspirations. Such selflessness is the epitome of service. Taking positions for personal gain isn’t truly service of others—it is self-serving. We should aspire to be leaders who are selfless.

There are many other great lessons to be learned in this profile of Bush 41. His story is one of great triumph, occasional defeat, and spectacular service. While George H. W. Bush may not go down in history as one of the most popular Presidents of all time, he has certainly left a legacy of a selfless leader for others to emulate.