Sen. Lucio files bill on athlete assaults

AUSTIN — State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. filed a bill Monday that would prohibit a student from participating in school district or UIL-sanctioned extracurricular activity if they engage in conduct that contains elements of an assault against a referee, judge or official of an extracurricular activity as a result of that person’s duties as an official, legislation inspired at least in part by an attack on a referee by an Edinburg football player in December.

That incident was caught on a video that garnered national attention, showing Emmanual Duron charging from the sideline to bowl over official Fred Gracia.

Duron was escorted from the stadium by police and charged with a class A assault.

As a result, the UIL state executive committee suspended Duron, a senior, from all extracurricular activities for the rest of the year, reprimanded Edinburg High football coach J.J. Leija and placed him on probation, and placed the school’s UIL programs on a two-year probation.

Although Edinburg qualified for the playoffs, the district opted to remove the team from the postseason, a move that was applauded by the UIL committee.

December’s attack was an inspiration for Senate Bill 619, Lucio said.

“Referees know they aren’t going to make everybody happy, but they deserve a safe environment to call a fair game,” Lucio wrote in an email. “Nobody should fear being assaulted when sharing their love of the game.”

Lucio said he hopes the legislation sends a message to athletes and codifies punishment for offenses like the one in December.

“Students need to know there is a line that cannot be crossed,” he wrote. “In addition to any criminal penalties that currently apply, this legislation instructs UIL, the governing body of the sport, to impose a penalty. Governing bodies of sports have their own penalties, and this is one which shows there is no room for assault in our state-sponsored events.

Ultimately, Lucio said, the motivation behind the legislation is to protect sports and the people that love them.

“Referees participate in UIL competitions because they love the sport and seeing the passion students have for it. They ensure the competition is fair and honest. In sports, there is always going to be a winner and a loser. It’s acceptable for emotions to run high,” he wrote. “But what is not acceptable is assaulting an official. There is absolutely no place for that in a healthy competition.”

Lucio’s office did not work with Edinburg CISD on the bill, although the district says they’re open to collaborating.

“The district was not contacted by Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. or his office with regards to Senate Bill 619,” a statement from ECISD reads. “We welcome any discussions with Senator Lucio on this matter.”