(Reprinted with permission from the Manchester Journal Inquirer.)
WWE critic: Blumenthal should repay supporters with involvement in sports concussion controversy
By Don Michak
A professional wrestling critic’s call for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to get involved in proposed hearings about concussions in sports has been met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception.
Irvin Muchnick, an author and blogger from California whose sharp criticism of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. figured in the Connecticut Democrat’s successful campaign against the WWE’s former chief executive, Republican Linda McMahon, last week urged the former attorney general to use his new job to help resolve “the national concussion crisis.”
Muchnick explained that two other Democrats, Reps. Henry Waxman of California and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, had asked a House subcommittee to hold hearings on football helmet safety, but that he wasn’t optimistic about the prospects for such an initiative in the Republican-controlled House.
“Calls for hearings by the minority party are a dime a dozen,” he said.
Muchnick also argued that any hearings should be broad enough to raise questions about the “global problem” of concussions in all contact sports, including the wrestling sponsored by the Stamford-based WWE.
“Concussions in sports are mixed up in the whole cocktail of steroid and painkiller abuse as well as the whole subject of regulation of the profitable and influential” professional wrestling business, he said.
Muchnick said Blumenthal had won his race against McMahon with the help of the director of a steroid-awareness group, Don Hooton, as well as from Michael Benoit, the father of a brain-damaged three-time WWE champion who committed suicide after killing his wife and son.
Blumenthal had brought Benoit from Canada to Hartford, where Benoit accused McMahon of running for the Senate to protect WWE’s profits and fight attempts to regulate the wrestling business.
The McMahon camp responded that it was “outrageous and reprehensible” for Blumenthal’s campaign to suggest that the murders committed by Benoit’s son, Chris, “ought to be excused and instead someone else held accountable.”
Muchnick, meanwhile, said Blumenthal in his first post-election news conference had vowed to take action on steroids and that now was the time for the freshman senator “to punch the ticket on his mandate.”
Asked Friday if Blumenthal agreed with Muchnick and would get personally involved in the helmet/concussion controversy, the senator’s spokeswoman, Kate Hansen, had just a single-sentence response.
“Senator Blumenthal is engaging in efforts to reduce injury and harm to athletes and competitors, and is considering additional measures to make sure law enforcement has the tools and resources they need,” she said.
Blumenthal after two months in his new job has yet to make his maiden speech on the Senate floor, and appears to be hewing to the advice of veterans in the Democrat-controlled Senate that newcomers should keep a low profile.