Ogden scraps plans for ban on profanity

Published: Saturday, Aug. 25 2012 11:17 p.m. MDT

OGDEN — Ogden city officials are scrapping plans to pursue an ordinance prohibiting the use of profanity at city-sponsored sporting events.

Officials said they'll consider other ways to promote sportsmanship after free-speech advocates raised questions about the proposal's constitutionality.

"It kind of snowballed and wasn't worth the anxiety it was causing," said Mark Johnson, Ogden's chief administrative officer.

In early August, the city's recreation division requested the ordinance in an attempt to promote civility by spectators and parents and to ensure the safety of umpires, referees and city officials.

Under the proposed ordinance, first-time violators could have been fined up to $750, and repeat violators could have been charged with a class C misdemeanor, sentenced to 90 days in jail and again fined up to $750.

It stated that "no person shall … disturb the peace by using obscene or profane language, in any park, playground or recreational facility owned or used by the city, or at any recreational event that is organized, operated, managed or sponsored by the city."

Brigham Young University law professor Frederick Gedicks said the proposal's language likely was too broad to withstand a legal challenge.

Erika George, a University of Utah law professor, agreed.

"One of the major problems is where they are proposing this," she said. "Parks are like the Colosseum; they have always been the place where people come together. They are the ultimate place for free speech."

Johnson said while the city was told by various legal experts that the ordinance was constitutional, it now would seek advice from the National Alliance of Youth Sports and other cities grappling with the same issue.

"This is a problem that every community addresses, so we'll look at other best practices," Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said.

Unruly parents and spectators are in the minority, Caldwell said, but can cause enough trouble to ruin the experience for everyone.

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