Harrisburg, PA – October 3, 2023 – State Senator Jimmy Dillon (D, Philadelphia) is pleased to announce the successful passage of Senate Bill 842, known as the Respect the Whistle Act, by the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee.
With a bipartisan majority of 13 to 2, this vote is a significant step towards ensuring the safety and dignity of sports officials across Pennsylvania. “I’m grateful to Chair Baker, Chair Santarsiero, and the members of the committee for their attention and support today,” said Senator Dillon.
Pennsylvania sports officials have had protection from assault since 1990. Senator Dillon’s SB 842 addresses a critical gap in that protection by tackling the issue of harassment. The Respect the Whistle Act will create a separate offense for harassment against sports officials to ensure they can do their jobs without fear.
“Nearly half of these officials have reported feeling unsafe due to the actions of parents, coaches, or players. More than 68% of officials think sportsmanship is declining. Over 67% have kicked out a spectator due to bad behavior. More than 55% have had to break up a fight during a game. And 60% of officials who quit the profession say it’s because of verbal abuse from parents and fans,” Senator Dillon highlighted in testimony before the committee.
Senator Dillon added, “It is essential to recognize that any form of harassment directed at these dedicated individuals is plainly wrong. No Pennsylvanian should go to work feeling anything less than safe.”
The Respect the Whistle Act does not expand the definition of harassment but empowers law enforcement and the judicial system to determine the appropriate course of action when an individual is targeted within their profession.
“Our kids deserve better, and we will not tolerate harassment of those who make youth sports possible. When we respect the whistle, we keep the focus where it belongs — on the game,” emphasized Senator Dillon.
The bill has earned the support of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). Dr. Robert Lombardi, PIAA’s Executive Director, urged the full legislature to take up the bill. “PIAA is requesting that the members of the General Assembly come together to support our sports officials who make these games happen, and without them, these activities become nothing more than recess. Please cast your vote to assist Representative Kulik’s and Senator Dillon’s legislation to help protect our sports’ officials.”
The House Companion, House Bill 297, is sponsored by Representative Anita Astorino Kulik of Allegheny County.
If this bill is passed and becomes law, it will amend Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes by adding a new section that defines the offense of harassment of a sports official.
Senator Dillon played Division I basketball for the University of Notre Dame before a brief professional career in Europe. His extensive background in sports as both an athlete and coach led to his appointment to the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee (PAOC) in January 2023. Senator Dillon is committed to fostering a safe and supportive sports environment for young athletes in Pennsylvania.