In sports, greatness and bragging about greatness often go together and many great professional athletes have been epic trash talkers. Take Michael Jordan, for example, who once allegedly said to 5′ 3″ Mugsy Bogues, “Shoot it, you f—ing midget.” And of course, there’s Muhammad Ali, who called Joe Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and a “gorilla,” among much else that simply was not very nice.
Beginning this fall, however, high school athletes who engage in such antics in New Jersey could find themselves in serious trouble. Like with the law.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, has implemented a new policy designed to punish players and teams for trash talk, reports the New York Post.
The state Attorney General’s office is in on the new rules as well. The state Civil Rights Division now has the power to investigate athletes who talk too much smack.
The new rules for athletics are part of a broader anti-bullying initiative in The Garden State. Athletes could face penalties for statements deemed to be harassing about another athlete’s gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
“High school sports enhances and supports education,” NJSIAA executive director Steven J. Timko said, according to the Post. “Obscene gestures, profanity or unduly provocative language or action toward officials, opponents, or spectators won’t be tolerated in the classroom or the field of play.”
“High school sports should be about building character and instilling life lessons about grace, courage, teamwork, and adversity,” added New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “Sometimes, we lose sight of those lessons on the field and in the stands.”
The policy was created in conjunction with the Coalition for Racial Equality in Education, a somewhat mysterious umbrella group of organizations that promotes anti-discrimination initiatives in education and doesn’t seem to have any web presence whatsoever.
While New Jersey isn’t generally known to be a powerhouse when it comes to sports, a handful of legendary athletes have hailed from the state including Carl Lewis, Franco Harris and Rosey Grier.
As US News notes, a young, impressively svelte Chris Christie was a catcher for the Livingston High School Lancers baseball team. His team won a state championship his senior year.