By Terri Jo Neff |
Although Super Bowl LVII will be played in Glendale, the residents, property owners, and business owners in downtown Phoenix must obtain permission from the NFL to place temporary signage on their own property before and after the big game.
Phoenix city officials passed Resolution 22073 earlier this year to designate nearly all of downtown as a Special Promotional and Civic Event Area in connection with the Super Bowl game being played at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12.
The NFL has planned several pregame events at venues across the area, including downtown Phoenix. As a result, a little publicized provision of the city’s resolution restricts “all temporary signage” unless approved by city staff, the NFL, and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.
“In other words, the city has banned hundreds of businesses, and thousands of residents, from speaking freely without permission from the government and two of the government’s handpicked entities,” explains John Thorpe, an attorney for the Goldwater Institute which is fighting back on the constitutional restriction.
Thorpe sent a letter on behalf of a Phoenix property owner to City Attorney Julie Kriegh last week demanding an end to the unconstitutional free speech restrictions.
“The ordinance also violates constitutional guarantees regarding due process and improper delegation of government power by broadly authorizing two private entities—the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee—to regulate private citizens’ speech with unfettered discretion and no procedural safeguards,” Thorpe wrote.
The signage restriction went into effect Nov. 1 with no fanfare from city officials. It remains in effect until Feb. 19, 2023, a full week after the Super Bowl. The Goldwater Institute became involved after Bramley Paulin sought to work with city officials so he could post temporary signage to advertise that his property is available to be leased.
Instead, Paulin was informed the property is within the “Clean Zone” covered by the Special Promotional and Civic Event Area. As a result, he cannot utilize the signage without authorization from the NFL and the host committee.
The city’s actions have already imposed substantial harm on Paulin, Thorpe told the city attorney. The letter seeks assurance that Paulin or his representatives may advertise on his property “without unreasonable restriction and without any input or review by the NFL or the Super Bowl Host Committee.”
It is unclear how city officials believe such an overreaching censorship deal is legal, let alone in the best interest of its residents. It does not appear that such restrictions were implemented in Inglewood, California during this year’s Super Bowl.
And there is no record of such restrictions back in 2015 when the Super Bowl was last played in Arizona, also in Glendale at what is now known as State Farm Stadium.
Thorpe acknowledges that hosting Super Bowl festivities is an exciting opportunity for many Arizonans, but he argues no benefits of any sporting event should come at the cost of forcing Arizonans to surrender their constitutional rights.
“And decisions about the free expression rights of downtown residents should not be delegated to unaccountable private parties,” he added.
AZ Free News has reached out for a comment about the free speech restrictions from Fox Sports and the Westwood One radio network, which are broadcasting Super Bowl LVII. A similar request was sent to Apple Music, the sponsor of the halftime show, as well as Roc Nation Management which represents Super Bowl halftime performer Rihanna.
No responses were received by press time.
Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.