Many of our members have seen the recent news items where officials have walked off the court or field prior to a game/match after players or coaches have taken a knee during the National Anthem. As you would expect, this has generated considerable discussion in the officiating community, which is always a good thing.
Many officials claim that this is the officials constitutional right of freedom of expression, while others feel that this is not the time or place to make such a statement. TASO embraces a culture of diversity that goes beyond the traditional definition, but also includes diversity of an individual\'s core beliefs. TASO respect the rights of a member to believe what they believe.
TASO members are "professional" officials. True, the great majority of TASO members only officiate amateur athletics, but let\'s look at the definition of a "professional":
"A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. The professional normally has some type of education or training that sets the professional apart from other people who might be able to do the same job, but do not have the same educational training and skills that a professional would have. Another characteristic of a professional is that a professional will have all the required licenses and permits for his or her profession. Someone who is not a professional will likely not put the effort into making sure everything is legal and legit."
Now, if that definition does not apply to TASO members, I don\'t know what does! Let\'s don\'t forget that being a "professional" also comes with certain behavioral expectations, among those is fulfilling your commitments. If you accept a game/match shouldn\'t you be expected to complete that assignment? While you may passionately disagree with a player or coach when they take a knee during the National Anthem, should that affect the way you officiate the game/match or even walk away? Not if you are a professional.
If you walk away from a game/match, what about the other players and coaches that displayed behavior that aligns with yours? Aren\'t your actions detrimental to their game? And what about your co-officials? Is leaving the officiating crew short-handed creating an adverse effect on them?
Bottom line: As an officiating professional, TASO expects each member to fulfill the commitment made when you accepted an assignment. Remember, after the game/match you may scratch a school from future assignments for any reason.
More than a year ago, TASO adopted a position concerning the National Anthem. You may find it on our website on the TASO Policies & Position page.
Michael Fitch, Executive Director