Sporting officials seeing violence rise in youth sports

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) – A friendly debate over ice cream flavors was as close as umpire Toby Dungan came to an argument Thursday night.

That’s a far cry from what took place at last Saturday’s youth softball game in Laurel. Authorities say veteran umpire Kristie Moore was sucker punched by Kiara Thomas, a player’s mom.

“I wasn’t three steps off the field and she was like right there,” said Moore. “I told her she needed to get away from me. She asked me what I was going to do and then called me an f’ing b-word and punched me.”

Umpire and USA Softball District Commissioner Tom Stanley knows Moore well. He says, what happened to her doesn’t shock him.

“It’s not surprising,” Stanley said. “That’s just downright criminal. The fact it happened in Mississippi. It could happen on the coast.”

Over the last three months, violence in youth sports in South Mississippi has been caught on camera multiple times. A fight happened between players at a high school basketball game between Vancleave and Pearl River Central. In Moss Point, adults were seen brawling at a recreational league contest.

“That’s crazy for it to get to that point,” said Taurian Haynes while watching his daughter play softball. “It’s not like anybody is getting paid. It’s all about having fun. You have to be an example to your kid at the same time.”

When not coaching, Tom Stanley is in charge of booking umpires. He said the uptick in violence has caused some officials to quit.

“Oh, that umpire didn’t know the rules or was inexperienced,” he said. “They look to find fault other places.”

Moore added, “It’s harder and harder every weekend because of the abuse officials and umpires across the board are experiencing.”

Police did arrest Kiara Thomas, the woman who Moore says attacked her. The suspect was also banned from all recreational facilities in Laurel.

The long-time umpire says she would like to see stricter laws in place to prevent other officials from being attacked.

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