The office of Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, has finally confirmed to me that he is doing nothing to back up his bluster at a February 26, 2008, hearing of the subcommittee, which Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment blew off.
Two years ago, Rush — playing kleig-light catch-up to Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings on steroids in sports — summoned the heads of all the major professional sports leagues and their talent unions. Rush also invited McMahon, who declined; WWE’s outside lawyer and Washington lobbyist, Jerry McDevitt, was busy at a trial in Pennsylvania.
Rush said, “I am exceptionally and extremely disappointed.... The number of deaths in the professional wrestling ranks is startling to say the least. The tragedy of Chris Benoit has been well documented. I want to assure Mr. McMahon that this committee fully intends to deal with the illegal steroid abuse in professional wrestling. And we hope he will be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
Vince and Linda McMahon already had been interviewed behind closed doors by Waxman’s Oversight Committee staff. Those transcripts were not released until January 2009, when Waxman was moving from Oversight to the chair of the House Energy Committee (which happens to be the parent of Rush’s subcommittee).
In his recent investigation for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut, reporter Brian Lockhart reviewed Waxman’s request to the White House National Office of Drug Control Policy to follow up on the matter, and how no one in Washington did.
Today Rush’s communications director, Sharon Jenkins, emailed me: “Briefly stated, other than continued review by subcommittee staff of the monitoring and enforcement practices of WWE and other professional sports leagues, there are no plans, at this time, for further hearings or congressional actions on this subject.”
Briefly stated, Lockhart’s conclusion that the federal legislative and executive branches “dropped the ball” is looking pretty accurate.