A lesson in leadership: A La Crescent-Hokah athlete asks fans to be kind to referees

LA CRESCENT-HOKAH, Minn. (WKBT) — They’re often the people at the center of any sporting. They’re also the people who get a lot of hate. Nationwide, roughly 20% of referees quit because of bad behavior by fans and teams. A La Crescent athlete wants to change that attitude – starting with his own community.

It all started with a Facebook post senior Noah Bjerke-Weiser made after a La Crescent-Hokah boys basketball team game this month. A simple request – bring sportsmanship back to sports.

Leaders set an example for their team and varsity captain Bjerke-Wieser is doing exactly that.

“We were just not super respectful to the refs,” said Bjerke-Wieser.

After a basketball game against Fillmore Central, the senior from La Crescent-Hokah went on Facebook to ask his community members to change.

“When refs may make a quote unquote bad call, then people get upset, but we just got to cheer for our team in the most positive way possible,” said Bjerke-Wieser.

Without a referee, Bjerke-Wieser says there’s no game.

“We can’t play without them. If we don’t have any, we couldn’t have fun on the court,” said Bjerke-Wieser.

Nationwide, referees have quit after being the subject of harassment – mostly from fans. In Wisconsin, the number of basketball referees available dropped by 18%. Last year, the Wisconsin River Officials Association started recruiting and training younger officials to help alleviate the referee shortage.

“Just getting refs in general, there’s a shortage in the area,” said Bjerke-Wieser.

Bjerke-Wieser says since his Facebook post, the basketball court already looks different.

“A lot has changed since then. We’ve been a super positive team and not complaining,”

Bjerke-Wieser’s request is reflected in his own community. The players play. The officials officiate. And the fans do what they do best – cheer.