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Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and sports spending: From Olympics to the WWF

santorumRick021412_optBY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS

You knew sooner or later that sports would become an issue on the 2012 Presidential campaign trail.

Mitt Romney ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and Rick Santorum was a lobbyist for the World Wrestling Federation in the late 1980s. Santorum's job as a World Wrestling Federation hired gun apparently was to make sure Pennsylvania state officials were no longer closely monitoring Vince and Linda McMahon's business.

Santorum and others did manage to rescue the McMahon's from the state regulators and help allow the McMahons to do business unfettered.

Santorum's role with the WWF was what lobbyists do: persuade lawmakers to change the rules to benefit their clients. But here is a problem. Santorum's help in getting state officials off the McMahon's collective back in Pennsylvania along with Santorum-like lobbyists in other states turned the WWF into an almost a lawless society (illegal drug usage) and a soap opera complete with storylines that Santorum would probably dismiss as spiritually devoid of values.

But in a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University in Florida, which was unearthed by Right Wing Watch, Santorum went after the National Basketball Association (a league that has had far fewer deaths of performers than pro wrestling and a league that tries to sell personality as part of an entertainment package not wrestlers kissing the bare rear end of the boss McMahon (in one storyline and there were far darker wrestling storylines than that) and rock concerts.

Santorum went after an entity, the NBA, which has a New York liberal as a commissioner who has imposed a dress code and has suspended players for bad behavior. NBA Commissioner David Stern, for his heavy handed tactics during the 2011 lockout, was accused by the "noted" philosopher and journalist Bryant Gumbel of “acting like a modern-day plantation overseer" during the owners-players negotiations.

Rick Santorum didn't help create the National Basketball Association culture but he did help create the modern World Wrestling Entertainment group. Oddly enough Vince McMahon told this reporter in 1984 that he intended to be the Walt Disney of the 1980s. In the 1990s, NBA Commissioner David Stern told this reporter that he wanted to make every NBA arena like Disneyland.

It will be interesting to see if Santorum teams up with Linda McMahon on the campaign trail in Connecticut and if any political reporters ask about McMahon's business.

In 2010, Santorum endorsed Linda McMahon in her race against Richard Blumenthal. McMahon lost by 12 points in a rout.

The wife of World Wrestling Entertainment Czar Vince McMahon and the former WWE Chief Executive Officer Linda McMahon is running again for the United States Senate for the State of Connecticut. In 2010, McMahon ran as an outsider and a job creator. She claimed she knew how to help create jobs in her state and elsewhere because she ran a successful business. But in 2009 and 2010 Linda McMahon was no outsider to politics. The World Wrestling Federation lobbied various states to decouple the "sport" from state athletic regulations. The McMahons argued that wrestling was a scripted entertainment and convinced lawmakers that it was really not much different from entertainment shows.

There was a reason that the McMahons wanted to get away from state athletic regulators. Wrestling resides in a murky area in sports and entertainment. The genre has some athleticism but in 1989 Vince McMahon testified before the New Jersey State Senate that his product was not a bona fide competition and that wrestling matches were staged events. McMahon was trying to catch some tax breaks from the state of New Jersey for his live shows and his pay-per-view TV offerings by claiming his genre was not a sport.

Santorum was one of those hired lawyer/lobbyists that the McMahon's needed to twist arms in various statehouses. Santorum was one of people the McMahons relied on in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.



 

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