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October 23, 2010

Looking at the WWE merchandise/voting controversy in Connecticut (with video)

On Friday, it was reported that the Connecticut secretary of state told election officials that they can ask voters clad in WWE t-shirts and hats to cover them up before allowing them to vote on Nov. 2 because wearing the merchandise could be interpreted as campaigning.

Campaigning – which includes wearing political paraphernalia – within 75 feet of polling places is illegal in Connecticut. Because Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon is the former WWE CEO, the wearing of WWE apparel could be seen as political advertising, a spokesman for Connecticut secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz told

The statement by Bysiewicz, a Democrat, has sparked outrage from Connecticut Republicans as well as Vince McMahon. In the video below, which is part of WWE’s “Stand Up for WWE” campaign, the WWE chairman claims that the first amendment rights of WWE fans are being violated.

I know that a lot of people roll their eyes whenever Vince McMahon – who has a reputation for being ruthless in business and an overbearing boss – tries to portray himself as a victim, but it’s pretty difficult to argue with him on this point.

Bysiewicz’s spokesman pointed out that there was a similar situation in California, when voters were asked not to wear any Arnold Schwarzenegger garb when he was running for governor. I think there’s a big difference, however, because there’s no such thing as a WWE t-shirt that bears Linda McMahon’s likeness. I also think it’s a stretch to assume that just because someone is wearing a John Cena cap or an Undertaker t-shirt that they’re voting for Linda McMahon.

It just seems to be a case of politics as usual – and both parties are guilty of such tactics. Is there any wonder why there is such voter apathy? Instead of the parties trying to figure out ways to suppress the vote, election officials should be doing everything in their power to make it easy for people to vote.

OK, I’m off my soapbox.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 9:06 PM | | Comments (22)


Kevin, c'mon you've been watching WWE too long if you are taking Vince's side on this one.

If you do not think WWE's actions over the last week are politically motivated, or that WWE is a brand that is associated with Linda McMahon, you are really being quite naive. You have not been taking any uncalled for chair shots to the head recently , have you?

RESPONSE FROM KE: Of course the Stand Up for WWE campaign is politically motivated. And when this kind of stuff happens, it only legitimizes McMahon's complaints. I believe in the spirit of the law, not necessarily the letter of the law. Asking someone to cover up a WWE t-shirt, to me, is absurd.

I guess that would mean that, in Baltimore County, anyone wearing to a polling place a Star of David or any other outwardly Jewish symbol would be campaigning for Kevin Kamenitz.

Would any of the election officials even be able to identify a WWE T-shirt? I mean a yellow and red pre-torn Hulk Hogan shirt from his days in the 80's might be pointed out. However, I doubt anyone there would be able to pick out a Randy Orton T-shirt out of the crowd. I wonder if wrestlers living in Connecticut would be turned away for going to the polls in their trunks.

If you believe in the spirit of the law how can you possibly be against barring WWE merchandise from voting areas?

If Glenn Beck ran for senate and Fox News organized people to wear Fox News merchandise at polling sites, I think that would be considered campaigning.

This is no different. Linda has used her involvement in WWE as the primary reason she should be elected, and the WWE corporation has participated in blatant campaigning for Linda.

You might have a leg to stand on if you argue for the letter of the law, but the spirit? You got your leg kicked out from under your leg.

I'm a Republican and while I think it's just plain silly to tell people they can't wear, oh say, a Cena or 'Taker shirt or hat I also see no first amendment rights case here. Both sides are just being foolish here

id like to comment on this as i have been a fan of the wwe althow i am not an american and dont greatly understand about the politics of the USA i do think its deeply wrong to ask voters to change what they are wearing just to vote if i was asked to change my t-shirt when i went to vote i think i would of boycotted the voting.... also i have to say there is alot more to this whole wwe being attacked then meets the eye which was explained in what some may say a conspiracy theory video but this is by wrestling insiders... with insider info

this is something thats is infringing on the people that enjoy and love wwe and something needs to be done.

First amendment rights? Come on, that is the highest level of hypocrisy coming from the company that censors signs at their shows and has been known to tell people not to wear apparel from other companies. But I guess this might be good in the end, it seems Vince is doing more harm than good to the campaign with this hissy fit of his.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Point well-taken about the hypocrisy, but the bottom line for me is that no one should be hassled about a t-shirt when they go to vote.

ok I know I'm not american and in fact over here in Australia during our recent elections, I campaigned for the democrat equivalent (Labor party) but I have to ask... If Steve Jobs was running in Connecticut would no one be allowed to take their, I-phone,I-pod, I-pad mac-book in with them?

Say what you will, but I'm sure Vinny Mac loves all the attention. Gives him more of a pedestal to stand on and preach his and the WWE's name. The whole "somebody slightly wronged me so I'm going to preach as loud as I can to all the 10 year-olds that still watch my programming despite being a questionable buisnessman" schtick got old months ago.

So you are telling me that when Obama was being elected in Connecticut that no one was allowed to wear his t-shirt. I doubt that. What does it matter? Seriously. If the people show up and take their 5 minutes to vote while wearing a WWE shirt, what does it matter? Is someone going into the polls going to say, "Oh my god that guy in the Cena shirt looks awesome, I have now changed my opinion on everything and will vote for Linda solely on that basis." NO. Who cares if they show up in a WWE t-shirt? The fact is they showed up to vote which now a days is a big deal in it self. What is next in this country? Soon they will be saying that you can only vote if you are wearing blue jeans and carrying a yellow carnation just to turn away voters. I'm sorry but as an Independent Voter I see this as a ridiculous argument that just shows how stupid politics and the idiots who follow it can be. I will now buy a WWE shirt and vote in it out of spite. Let them arrest me for voting. Land of the free my a**.

Kevin, I too am a Republican. I love your blog, always enjoy reading it. I don't often agree with your political opinions (um...this is a wrestling blog!), so I was kind of dreading reading this entry, but I was pleasently surprised. Rather than just use this as an opportunity to bash the "evil" Republicans, you basically called out the ridiculousness of this whole thing. Well said. And for those who disagree with Mr. Eck, well, it's his blog, his opinion, and we should all be thankful he (and we) have the right to express it. If you don't like it, write your own blog. Or just shut up and vote.

I must say, I've never walked into a polling place, taken one look at a T-Shirt and changed my vote as a result. If you're this stupid, you can't buckle a seat belt and should be wearing some sort of protective headgear when you sleep. Most people, especially in this political climate, know exactly who they're voting for by the time they hit the parking lot of the polling place. This is the kind of idiotic rule that needs revision and it's this Nanny state hogwash that's going to result in a gigantic enema of our politicians from DC.

The first amendment is the most misunderstood amendment.

1. The WWE can not violate your first amendment rights no matter what they do, they are not the government. When you walk into their show, they can tell you what you can or can not say.

2.This ban is a violation of the 1st Amendment as is the whole "you can't wear x at a polling place" but the courts have ruled it an acceptable infringement.

This is stupid and the CT SoS is a moron.

First amendment rights? Come on, that is the highest level of hypocrisy coming from the company that censors signs at their shows and has been known to tell people not to wear apparel from other companies

No no no, the first amendment has NOTHING to do with what a company can censor. The WWE can ban whatever they want because it is their product. However, the first amendment applies to the government, or in this case telling people they can't wear WWE shirts.

There is nothing hypocritical about using the fact that the first amendment applies to the government, not companies.

Did they say anything about wearing a Blumenthal t shirt?

Jon, you can't really compare voting to bringing a sign to an entertainment venue. One is a federally protected right and the other isn't.

only governments can censor. It doesn't apply to when WWE takes signs away at the arena. Granted, i think it is hypocritical, but he has as much right to do that as anyone has to kick someone out of their house that does or says something they don't agree with.

As a poll worker in a different state, I agree in principle with the 75 foot rule, prohibiting campaigning close to the polling place. But it is ridiculous to think that WWE merchandise constitutes campaigning for McMahon. Frankly, I think McMahon has underutilized her family business in her campaign, so it's hard to imagine how a wrestling shirt could be campaigning.

One point in the voter's favor is that, unless it creates a disturbance, it's highly unlikely that a WWE shirt would be noticed by a poll worker. Fortunately, it's the poll worker onsite that would have the final say, and if they are inattentive or ambivalent, then so be it. In my experience, challenging a voter over attire is what that person wants, so letting them slide in and out quickly and quietly works best and denies them the attention they were hoping to get.

One point of disagreement with McMahon. At the polling place, it's not time to stand up for WWE. There, it's time to stand up for your candidate. My advice to a CT voter challenged over their WWE attire would be to comply and cast your vote. Hopefully, you'll choose correctly and get someone with more common sense than the current incumbents.

First of all, there is no hypocrisy with WWE censoring fans (or even their own employees) at their shows. The First Amendment does not apply to private organizations such as WWE or the Baltimore Sun. The First Amendment only applies to the government, and government officials such as a State Secretary of State.

Is it me or is Susan Bysiewicz doing Linda McMahon a favor here? A John Cena shirt isn't likely to catch anybody's eye one way or another. But if somebody went to a poll wearing a Degeneration X T-shirt., somebody else might remember why they don't like WWE in the first place.

When did voting and campaigning become one and the same? Does this mean that Linda, herself, is banned from voting because her presence at the polling station could be construed as campaigning for herself? If a bunch a folks wearing WWE apparel were to hand out Linda pamphlets and recite campaign slogans at the polling stations, then I would see a problem.

I wish I lived in Connecticut now.

This ruling is absolutely absurd. If the President of Nike runs for office in Oregon, would they make you take off your shoes if they were Nikes? If Joe Paterno runs for Governor of Pennsylvania, do we try to ban Penn State clothing? What if the CEO of Levi-Strauss ran for state senator somewhere? Everybody must take off their pants?

The ruling also leaves way too much open to interpretation and the discretion (or poor discretion) of election officials. Is a John Cena shirt a WWE shirt or a John Cena shirt (or both)? Obviously, WWE brands the shirt, but the WWE is not nearly as prominant on it as John Cena. How prominant does a WWE logo have to be until it is a WWE shirt?

What if officials see a Kurt Angle shirt from TNA (Total Nonstop Action) and mistake it for a WWE shirt? It's not even a WWE shirt, but I can certainly envision an election official not understanding that there are other wrestling companies and assuming it is a WWE shirt.

Basically, this is not only a horrible ruling for it's potential first amendment implications, but simply because it lacks any definitions or instructions for election officials. Apparently, the judge making this ruling is not up for election soon.


"On Friday, it was reported that the Connecticut secretary of state told election officials that they can ask voters clad in WWE t-shirts and hats to cover them up before allowing them to vote on Nov. 2 because wearing the merchandise could be interpreted as campaigning." Following this logic, would it be an issue if someone broke out an Las Vegas Outlaws jersey from the XFL?? Seriously, haven't we got enough other issues to worry about than someone wearing a WWE shirt to a polling station?

So.. can I wear my Ebay hat when going to the poll in California? Or does Meg get to use "Buy it Now" for my vote?

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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