This article includes excerpts from article in Referee.com, October 24, 2018
When we sign up to be an official, we should understand there is a higher standard of behavior for our actions on the field or court. But what about when we are not wearing the uniform? Like it or not officials are public figures, even at the amateur levels. People will sometimes recognize us as an official when we’re in public — even when we’re not in uniform. It is not uncommon for coaches and/or others to recognize our face or even our name.
Coaches and fans may recognize us and approach us in a restaurant. A traveling crew will often go to a restaurant after the game; inevitably there will ensue a discussion about the game. This is a situation ripe for somebody overhearing your conversation. One of the D1 conferences has a policy for this – if the crew sees fans at the restaurant, before or after they get there, finish your drinks and then leave as discreetly as possible.
This has happened to other umpires – the umpire is in the stands as a fan, there to enjoy the game and support a few friends who are about to call the game, when a complete stranger comes up and asks, “How would you like to be working this game?” Or, the fan might approach and ask about the recent controversial play or ruling.
These examples show that we are in the public eye whether or not we are calling a game, so we need to behave appropriately.
At the game site
This “public notoriety” starts from the time you enter the game site and until you leave the site. If a game administrator or other team representative escorts you from the parking lot to the locker room, be friendly but do not start the conversation, and especially make no comments about the participating teams or the upcoming game. If you must use a parking lot as your locker room, as you talk to your partner(s) or conduct your pregame, watch form spectators walking within earshot.
Even in the mostly “friendly” confines of the field during the game, be careful what you discuss with your partner between innings or during an extended suspension of play – fielders and players warming up can hear you. If you must have a discussion with the plate umpire, make it closer to the foul line if possible, and away from the spectator area.
As you leave the field and are escorted or transported to your dressing room, especially in the Division 1 level, refrain from making comments about the game, players, coaches, staff and the facilities. Do not mention that you have a flight to catch once the game is over. You may have had a call which went against the home team near the end of the game or to end the game. Most likely, it will get back to the home team and might cause concern about that call as having been made so you would not miss your flight. Some of our observers have actually witnessed this.
As A Fan
Represent officiating as we would want to be supported by fellow officials if we are working the game. Whether or not we have expertise in a particular sport, we should back the official(s) or refrain from commenting.
People will notice our actions in the stands. If we happen to be at a game and start yelling at an official, we will lose credibility. What stops a fan from seeing us do that and thinking it is acceptable? Maybe they will do the same to the officials or even to us when we officiate our next game. Be professional at all times.
On Social Media
Officials often have their own social media accounts and make regular posts. Remember, once we hit send there is no going back.
Be careful what we post on those sites about officiating. Refrain from making comments about officials in any sport. Avoid posting where we are working or about pending assignments. Don’t post about interactions with individuals (coaches, players, partners) whom we officiated.
The public eye is always watching and always listening.