Vince McMahon filed a federal lawsuit today asserting the right of World Wrestling Entertainment fans to wear WWE gear to the polls next week.
McMahon, the chairman of WWE and husband of U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, was responding to Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s statement that wearing WWE paraphernalia could be considered electioneering under some circumstances.
“On behalf of myself, my company, WWE fans and any Connecticut citizen who wants to exercise their constitutional right to vote, I have filed a lawsuit today asserting that Susan Bysiewicz’s directive that allows poll workers to refuse registered voters wearing WWE merchandise the right to vote is a flagrant act of censorship and discrimination,” McMahon said.
McMahon has support from an unlikely corner: The campaign of the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Richard Blumenthal.
“We don’t consider WWE clothing to be political or covered by any law that restricts political action close to polling places. People should be able to wear their WWE clothes to vote,” said Mindy Myers, the campaign manager for Blumenthal.
And Bysiewicz advised local officials today that only WWE gear that solicits a vote should be banned:
“In preparing for this election, be advised that it is the position of this office that simply wearing WWE apparel at the polls, including apparel with the trade name or logo of the WWE or the name or photograph of any WWE entertainer that does not display the name or photograph of Linda McMahon, U.S. Senate candidate, or the name or logo of Ms. McMahon’s campaign does not trigger a violation of Section 9-236.”
In a statement issued tonight, Vince McMahon sounded like he was ready to declare victory and drop the lawsuit.
“Within hours of filing the lawsuit, Blumenthal recused himself, and Bysiewicz reversed her position and immediately notified all Local Registrar of Voters and Town Clerks via email. I am pleased that Connecticut voters have had their freedom of expression and their right to vote restored,” McMahon said in an emailed statement.
Rob Zimmerman, a WWE spokesman, said the suit will not be dropped until the company is assured that no one will be challenged for wearing WWE gear. (UPDATE: A judge ruled Wednesday that WWE gear cannot be banned.)
No WWE clothing bears the likeness of Linda McMahon, but Bysiewicz gave the impression earlier in the week that local officials could ban WWE gear it at their discretion, because the brand is closely associated with the Republican Senate candidate.
Bysiewicz said she never suggested that all WWE gear be banned.
The suit states that Vince McMahon intends to wear WWE clothing to the polls next week as a matter of free speech.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction.
Among the lawyers representing WWE in the suit are Stanley A. Twardy Jr., a former U.S. attorney and former chief of staff to Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who is a member of WWE’s board of directors.
Blumenthal, who is the attorney general, has recused himself from the suit.