New Jersey bans trash talk in prep sports; should Florida follow?

jlembo@bradenton.comJune 29, 2013 

The Garden State has put the smackdown on smack talk in prep sports.

Will such a measure make its way down to the Sunshine State?

A trash-talk ban will be instituted this fall by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association and the state attorney's general office. The rule says referees will report incidents of language deemed unsportsmanlike or smack talk, and players who are found guilty will not only be ineligible for games but may be investigated by the New Jersey state attorney's civil rights division.

The policy is in accordance with New Jersey's anti-bullying law, according to a story by NBC New York.

The Florida High School Athletic Association's rules say referees and officials are to report any language they deem inappropriate or unsportsmanlike. The association investigates the matter before deciding whether to hand down punishment.

There is no involvement from the state government.

"Right now, we have not considered it. But we cannot speak about the future," Justin Harrison, the FHSAA's assistant executive director of athletic services, said of the ban. "It will be interesting to see what comes out in New Jersey. All parties involved want to make sure all the student-athletes are getting the positive aspects of high school sports, so if this helps New Jersey address (its) concerns, other states would probably look into it."

Andy Gugliemini sees the matter from two sides. Not only has he been Manatee's wrestling coach since 1995, but he has been a wrestling and football official for roughly 20 years.

"I think it's only a problem if the official lets it become a problem," said Gugliemini, recently named the FHSAA's football official of the year. "If a kid does something or says something ... you hit him with an unsportsmanlike (penalty). Very rarely have I had a problem on the mat or on the field.

"I don't see it being any worse where you need any new rules or guidelines. I think the FHSAA does a pretty

good job of handling it."

As a coach, Gugliemini said his message to wrestlers is simple: Keep your mouths shut.

"I want them to wrestle hard, but there is no need for that extra stuff," Gugliemini said. "Do our talking on the mat."

Coaches policing their players is where sportsmanship starts. Respect the coach, and chances are players will show a similar respect toward officials, as well as opposing players and fans.

Such is the mantra John Harder has been delivering for more than 30 years as Southeast's girls basketball coach. The Seminoles are representatives of Southeast, as well as Bradenton, and any poor behavior they exhibit will be picked up by the referees.

The last thing Harder wants, he said, is for the Seminoles -- or the school and community they represent -- to be saddled with a bad reputation.

"I have a lot riding on that round ball, and I don't want it to be compromised," Harder said. "I don't want what we do to be reflected through the refs. They talk. Scorekeepers talk. We go, we do our job, we go home. That's the way we leave it.

"It's just a game, and it's privilege to play the game. Don't degrade the sport."

During a game at a camp last weekend at USF, Harder watched while his best player, Keshawna Robinson, was the victim of a hard foul.

While Robinson took her free throws, Harder said the player who dished out the foul walked to the sideline and tied her shoes.

When play resumed, Harder noticed the girl was still in the game.

"I wanted to ask the opposing coach, 'What are you, crazy?'" Harder said. "There is no attitude in Lady Seminole. I don't let them talk in the huddle, I don't accept attitude. (If they don't like it), go play somewhere else. Here is how I run it."

Sportsmanship is thekey, Harder said, and he starts hammering it into his players when they are freshmen.

"You've got to start it in the ninth grade, or they'll get away from you with this generation," he said. "It is so different than how it used to be. You have to establish it quick."

Harder hopes the smack talk and unsportsmanlike behavior doesn't get so out of hand that Florida has to enact the same measures as New Jersey.

Harrison, meanwhile, said all eyes will be up north to see how this new wrinkle works.

"In Florida, we are working on sportsmanship," he said, "and getting the message out."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service