Super Bowl censorship scheme violates free speech, court rules

February 11, 2023
World Net Daily

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A scheme that was developed by the city of Phoenix allowing the National Football League to censor messages on signs in the city during the Super Bowl has been struck down.

According to a report from the Goldwater Institute, the judge found that the "Super Bowl Censorship Ordinance" violated the free speech rights of citizens.

It also "unconstitutionally delegated power to the National Football League (NFL) and Super Bowl Host Committee," the report said.

The institute had sued the city because its new rule "barred residents from placing signs on their own property without first getting approval from the NFL and the Host Committee – two private entities that were empowered to choose what kind of speech people were allowed to engage in," the report said.

But that amounted to "an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech and an unconstitutional delegation of power."

City officials adopted their scheme last fall after declaring a section of their downtown a "clean" zone where no one could post a sign without having it reviewed by the football officials.

But because those are private businesses the ordinance effectively gave for-profit companies the unrestricted power to choose what messages they were willing to allow in a large section of one of the nation’s biggest cities, the institute reported.

Businessman Bramley Paulin owns property there and wanted to sell space to advertisers.

The institute's analysis said, "For one thing, the government isn’t allowed to give its power away to private parties – something lawyers call 'delegation.' Yet Phoenix was giving the committee and the NFL the power to decide what signs could be posted."

The judge said that's "totally antithetical to the principles of limited government enshrined in Arizona’s Constitution."

The rule also was so vague the judge said it provided "no standards."

"There is no legitimate government interest in content-based regulation of signs, let alone regulation of signs based on the content preferences of private businesses that are given special privileges by the government," the judge said.

Bramley noted, "The city should have never allowed this to happen in the first place: it’s wrong for the government to let the NFL and other private groups censor business owners like me, or any residents of the downtown area."

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