Harrisburg, PA October 25, 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.
With a bipartisan majority of 48 to 2, this vote is a significant step towards ensuring the safety and dignity of sports officials across Pennsylvania. “I’m grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their thoughtful consideration and support,” 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. If enacted, the Respect the Whistle Act would create a separate offense for harassment against sports officials to ensure they can do their jobs without fear.
“Sadly, if you’ve spent any time on the sidelines or in the stands you’ve probably witnessed how one call can spiral into threats of violence. Almost half of our officials have said they feel unsafe due to the actions of parents, coaches, or players, and it’s a big reason they’re quitting the profession,” Senator Dillon explained in remarks on the Senate floor.
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 this profession.
“By passing SB 842, we can protect the unsung heroes who make the games possible: the officials who ensure fair play, foster sportsmanship, and keep children across Pennsylvania safe,” 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 both chambers to pass 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 bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 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.