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Hey, sports spectators, respect the whistle

State Sen. Jimmy Dillon on Saturday held a news conference in the Bustleton Bengals gym to rally support for SB 842, the “Respect the Whistle Act.”

The legislation addresses the issue of harassment and bullying faced by sports officials across Pennsylvania, creating a criminal offense for harassment.

“Sports officials have a challenging job,” said Dillon, a star basketball player at Holy Ghost Prep who also played at Notre Dame.

Dillon spoke of a survey showing 68% of officials believe sportsmanship is declining, 67% having ejected spectators due to bad behavior and 55% having had to break up fights during games.

Earlier this month, the Respect the Whistle Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association supports the bill.

“Action is needed,” Dillon said.

Others who attended the event included Jim Hasher (an at-large City Council candidate and longtime president of the Torresdale Boys Club); city controller candidate Christy Brady, a former Cheltenham High School basketball player; Gary Masino, a candidate in the 10th Councilmanic District; City Councilman Isaiah Thomas, also a high school basketball coach; Michael Hawkins, PIAA District 12 chairman; Michael Barsotti, director of youth sports for the city Department of Parks and Recreation; and Bill Ciavarelli, a District One and 12 official and recruiter who has seen a steep decline in the number of officials since he began in 1991.

“Try to run a game without officials and see how that turns out,” said Hawkins, a longtime coach at the former Germantown High School.

Dillon was pleased to see bipartisan Judiciary Committee support for what he calls a “common-sense” bill. He hopes for a full Senate vote before the House considers a similar bill. ••

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