Reports that a single punch from a teenage soccer player killed a referee in a recreational league in Utah sent shock waves across the sporting world. The shock, of course, was from the fact that the man died. It could be no shock that the punch occurred — simply because reports of violent outbreaks at youth sporting events have become commonplace. Too often, they’re written off as isolated incidents or the product of excess competitiveness. Now, with the death earlier this month of Utah referee Ricardo Portillo, the sports world has to start treating violent outbursts as a problem in and of itself.
Portillo, 46, a furniture company worker and volunteer referee, was hit by an irate 17-year-old player, who was angry after a call went against him. The assailant, whose name has not been released, now faces a third-degree felony homicide by assault charge.