The speech police will not be patrolling Ogden city parks and recreation events to crack down on profanity outbursts.
Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson announced earlier this week that staff would no longer pursue an ordinance banning obscenity-laced language at city-sponsored youth and adult league events.
"Sometimes you have people who escalate beyond what they should emotionally at these events," Johnson said of incidents where spectators had disagreed with a referee's or umpire's call. "So we were trying to put some more tools in place so that people don't feel threatened."
Outcry from free-speech advocates caused the administration to reconsider its position.
"It kind of snowballed and wasn't worth the anxiety it was causing," Johnson said.
The administration subsequently withdrew its request and will seek other solutions.
In early August, Ogden Public Services Director Jay Lowder initiated the profanity prohibition in hopes of restoring civility and sportsmanship to city-sponsored events that he said are intended to be wholesome and fun.
The new language, aimed at protecting city officials, employees, umpires and referees from verbal and physical assault, would have become part of the city's disorderly conduct statute.
Violators could have been charged with an infraction and fined up to $750. If caught using profanity persistently, offenders could have been charged with class C misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail and again fined up to $750.
Lowder believes some media reports about the proposed ordinance didn't fully explain the issue, leaving the idea without support before it ever gained momentum.
"It was misinterpreted from the get-go and became unpopular the way it was," Lowder said of the proposed ordinance. "We'll figure out other ways to address the issue . . . so we don't get anyone hurt."
Longtime Ogden resident Dan Deuel was pleased that the proposal got scrapped. At Tuesday's City Council session, where city officials chose to nix the profanity ban, Deuel rose to caution against losing freedoms by using the heavy hand of government to solve such problems.
"There are other ways to handle those situations, especially if you're talking about little leagues," Deuel said, suggesting that overly aggressive parents could be barred from attending games.
"Assault is already a crime," Deuel added. "We don't need to start stifling speech."
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said that unruly parents and spectators are in the minority, but can cause enough trouble to ruin the experience for everyone else.
The city will seek advice from the National Alliance of Youth Sports and other cities grappling with similar challenges.
"This is a problem that every community addresses, so we'll look at other best practices," Caldwell said.
Need to swear in Ogden? Feel free.
Ogden will no longer consider adopting the following: "Pursuant to Utah Code Annotated section 10-8-50 . . . no person shall engage in disorderly conduct… or disturb the peace by using obscene or profane language, in any park, playground or recreational facility owned or used by the city, or any recreational event that is organized, operated, managed or sponsored by the city."
Source: Ogden City