Friday, October 22, 2010

WWE shirts banned from Connecticut polls?

Today, the Connecticut Secretary of State warned voters to not wear WWE apparel when they vote, because it could be considered campaigning for Linda McMahon at a polling place, which is banned. WWE responded with this statement:

STAMFORD, Conn. – The right for World Wrestling Entertainment fans to vote was threatened Friday by Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, who gave the authority to local poll workers to determine that if anyone shows up to the polls on November 2 wearing any WWE merchandise, whether it is a John Cena T-shirt or a Randy Orton wristband, they may be forced to go home and change, cover it up, or take it off in order to vote.

“Denying our fans the right to vote, denying them their First Amendment rights, regardless if they are Democrat, Republican or Independent, is un-American, unconstitutional and blatantly discriminatory,” said Vince McMahon, Chairman and CEO of WWE.

A bit over the top, no one is threatening a WWE fan's right to vote, they just may not be allowed to wear a WWE t-shirt at a polling place. There's certainly an argument to be made about whether or not WWE and Linda McMahon's campaign are one in the same, but I can certainly see where the state of Connecticut is coming from. This was a major issue in the 2008 election with voters being asked to change when showing up to polling stations with Barack Obama t-shirts on.

But while WWE's reaction was a tad dramatic, it pales in comparison to the dirtsheet reaction. The Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Weekly, which ya know, is supposed to be the "good" dirtsheet, gave us this gem:

Vince is losing it bad put up a release today claiming that Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz was denying wrestling fans of their first amendment rights when she stated that people at polls had the right to tell people showing up wearing WWE merchandise that they could be asked to change their clothes.

Bysiewicz said earlier today that people in charge of polling locales would have the authority to make that call because WWE was so heavily associated with Linda McMahon's candidacy.

Vince McMahon claimed that she was attempting to deny WWE fans the right to vote, which is not what was said, and that they are in violation of their first amendment rights.

This is laughable for a company that confiscates signs at its arenas and would has a policy of not allowing fans visible on camera to wear T-shirts from other promotions.

Sensationalist headline? Check. Inaccurate information? Check. Ridiculous amounts of editorializing? Check, check, check. I'm not sure if Bryan Alvarez or Dave Meltzer wrote this excuse for "journalism," but whoever did might want to take a basic civics class so they can have some grasp on how the First Amendment actually works.

WWE confiscating a sign or not allowing a rival promotion's shirt to be visible is not a violation of anyone's First Amendment rights, nor is it comparable. WWE literally cannot violate your right to free speech because WWE is not the government; the First Amendment protects speech from being censored by the government, not private enterprise. WWE is a private business, when you purchase a ticket and go to their show, you agree to their rules, which are explained to you before the show begins.

An election however, is the government, and while we can debate whether or not a WWE t-shirt is campaigning for Linda McMahon, it is the government restricting someone's clothing, which is arguably a restriction of free speech. I would say The Observer/F4W is "losing it bad," but that would imply that they ever had something to begin with.

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