Pro wrestling group threatens to leave Georgia
World Wrestling Entertainment says it will pull out of the state if subjected to state regulation.
“If those regulation are applied to us, we won’t do Georgia,” WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt warned Monday afternoon.
The threat came on the eve of Tuesday morning’s scheduled 11 a.m. meeting of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission in which the state governing body is expected to discuss abuses in professional wrestling.
The body, which is better known as the state boxing commission, regulates the state’s boxing and mixed martial arts, as well as ticket brokers.
Professional wrestling also falls under the group’s jurisdiction, but the WWE had been exempt thanks to a 2005 statute that excluded groups with total assets or more than $25 million. Only the state Legislature can undo the exemption.
“Almost every state knows, and has known for years, that wrestling is entertainment and not a sport,” he said. “It’s like Ice Capades.”
Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission chairman Kelly Farr declined comment when reached at his office.
One of the board’s commissioners, Atlanta-based attorney Cary Ichter, represents the father of deceased wrestler Chris Benoit, whose murder of his wife and son and subsequent suicide at their family home in Fayettville precipitated the series of events leading to this point.
Ichter, who has championed for the better care of wrestlers since the Benoit tragedy in late June, said he wasn’t surprised to hear of the WWE’s threat to pull out.
“What else would you expect a bully to say?” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting of the boxing commission is expected to focus largely on small-time wrestling events and not the conglomerate that is the Connecticut-based WWE.
The commission is expected to take public comment before considering a number of amendments to its rules.
Ichter has said he would love to see the WWE’s loophole eventually rescinded and have its performers subject to drug testing and other regulation just like participants from other sports in Georgia.
The WWE will be back in town next week when it hosts its “Raw Live” show at Phillips Arena on Dec. 28.