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Referee violently attacked at youth basketball game at church in DeKalb, police investigating

This video, posted to Facebook on Sunday, shows several people cornering and attacking a referee after a youth basketball game.

LITHONIA, Ga. — A video making the rounds on social media shows a referee attacked on the court at a youth basketball game at a DeKalb County church. The video, posted to Facebook on Sunday, shows several people cornering and attacking a referee after a youth basketball game.

The sports official tries to defend himself against the group before he’s pulled to the ground, punched and kicked repeatedly by at least four people, who appear to be both players and spectators. The referee has not been identified. Police have not released any information on the victim's condition. 

DeKalb Police were called to the court, which is at Stronghold Christian Church. Police confirmed they're investigating the incident, saying that as of Tuesday no one had been arrested or charged. It is not clear who the teams in the video are. They do not appear to be associated with any specific schools or registered leagues.

Stronghold Christian Church did not clarify the teams' names or affiliations.

"It is truly unfortunate about the turn of events that took place during the basketball game held at our facility this weekend," Senior Pastor, Dr. Benjamin Gaither said in a statement. "We open our doors to serve our community and our goal is to provide an atmosphere conducive for enjoyment, enrichment, etc.  While we can not control people, it is our hope and prayer that those who enter our facility will conduct themselves in the best manner.  Our prayers go out to all those involved in this current situation."

The attack is just the latest in a concerning trend.

"It's becoming too commonplace now that we're having contest officials be assaulted by parents, players, coaches," said Ernie Yarborough, assistant executive director for the Georgia High School Association. “It was very disturbing for me to see that."

Yarborough added that between the pandemic and an increasing number of incidents like this latest attack, they’re having a hard time recruiting sports officials. And that, he said, ends up impacting school athletics programs.

“It's important that you do have an adequate number of officials to cover all those games," Yarborough explained, "or else you're you become restricted on the days you can play and the number of games you can play and the levels of teams that any respective school may have."

The National Association of Sports officials recently surveyed more than 17,000 sports officials. About 57% reported sportsmanship is getting worse, while 27% said it’s about the same. And 40% surveyed said parents cause the most problems.

“It is an issue that we see more and more, especially in the last four or five years," Yarborough said. "What's happening in our society to cause people to react like that over a game of basketball? If you don't know how to handle failure, then you're going to have a tough time in your regular life.”

Yarborough said in Georgia, they have several hundred open positions they’re working hard to fill, offering incentives like scholarships and higher pay than neighboring states. Those who wish to learn more about officiating for GHSA can do so here.

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