Corey's Legal Corner

Questions? Comments! Drop Corey A Note
Corey is with the Law Offices of Charles A. Goldwasser and has played and officiated indoor and beach volleyball where he currently plays on the professional-beach circuit. There are several articles posted here one on top of another just like the towels in your gym bag. Pull them out and give them some air. That's what this section is about, airing areas of concern in the Sport of Volleyball.

The Headline Rule

I've been asked to write a series of articles. This first article is on the ethics of volleyball referees, mainly for High School referees. The issue came up as a result of a case in the Chicago area in which a referee was dating a high school player.

 Let me preface this article by stating that as an attorney I find it ludicrous for an employer to dictate a persons morals. Each of us has our own set of values and no one has the right to force one's own morals or values on another person. With that said let's move on.

 In California, the only state in which I practice law, there are specific case decisions that state certain professions are held to a higher standard which impose certain responsibilities and limitations on freedom of action which do not exist in other callings. Among these professions are law enforcement, and teaching. The rationale for school employees is that we entrust them with our young and in doing so we are entitled to hold them to a higher standard for their position of trust. High School referees are held to this same standard (depending on their employment status) and should conduct themselves accordingly.

 In addition to encompassing these added restrictions into their way of life, referees need to be always cognizant of their duty to be impartial and fair. Any outside behavior which may lead an observer to question the impartiality or fairness of a referee cannot be tolerated...especially if that behavior is illegal. Note, just because one is not caught or reported to the authorities does not make the behavior acceptable.

A good test to use is "the headline rule". "Would I want this behavior or action reported on the front page of my local newspaper?" If not, then don't do it. It is important for an organization that accredits or assigns the referee to control inappropriate behavior. Organizations need to establish and enforce rules of conduct and codes of ethic and to inform/train their members as to these rules. The organization also has a responsibility to its members to insure that the enforcement of any rule is fair, proper and universal. Rumors or unverified complaints cannot be the basis of negative action by the ruling body. Furthermore, any enforcement of rules must allow the accused an opportunity to present his side and if necessary to appeal any decision to a neutral body or person.

Bringing this all back to the dating case, one can see several obvious issues that arise. First and foremost the issue of criminal violations come up in the form of statutory rape, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Usually, it is up to a parent to complain to police, but a governing body should be allowed to take action notwithstanding a police report. Second is the issue of fairness and impartiality. A referee would never be able to work a match in which the player is competing or has an interest in the outcome. The organization would have to take action to protect not only the organization's interests but also the integrity of the game. Hopefully the organization would already have in place the procedures to investigate and if necessary correct any problem.

I realize I have touched on ominous issues but hopefully this article will provide a forum for open discussions. I do want to acknowledge that ethics have more to do with common sense than anything else. And, also remember that ethics and morals, are not one and the same.