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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Johana Portillo, left, and her sister Ana Portillo, talk about their dad Ricardo Portillo during a press conference at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray Thursday May 2, 2013. Portillo died Saturday night, May 4.
HBO's "Real Sports" reports on death of Utah soccer referee

HBO's award-winning "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" delves into the issue of violence against referees on Tuesday with a report on the death of a soccer official here in Utah.

Referee Ricardo Portillo, 46, was working a game in Taylorsville on April 27 when he yellow carded a 17-year-old goalkeeper. According to a police report, the goalie was angered by the card and punched Portillo in the head.

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The referee soon lapsed into a coma and died on May 4.

Among those interviewed in Tuesday's episode (8 and 11 p.m., HBO), is Portillo's daughter, Johana.

"My dad, he always said that he wanted to be a famous referee." she says. "And I'm, like, I just feel bad that he got to be famous of this, you know? These circumstances."

Johana Portillo also recalls the moments just before her father lapsed into a coma.

"I was, like, 'Daddy, are you OK?'" she says. "He looked at me. He started crying. He said, 'No.'

"I was, like, 'We're gonna be fine. You'll see.' He said, 'No.' And then, when he started crying, he started going into shock and they pulled me out of the room. And that was the last time I saw my Dad conscious."

The segment focuses on what happened here in Utah as part of the larger issue of violence against referees. Barry Mano, president of the National Association of Sports Officials, says he knew something like this would happen eventually, and advocates for laws to protect referees.

"Well, we have legislation passed in 22 different states right now that makes it more than a simple misdemeanor to assault an official," Mano says. "I think it's important to make a statement as a society - don't mess with the referees."

Asked by reporter Jon Frankel if he thinks more referees will die, Mano says, "Put my feet to the fire, the answer's yes. Sports is life with the volume turned up."



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