Super Bowl Doesn’t Mean Free Speech for All!

Not necessarily "Free" speech...
Not necessarily “Free” speech…

After a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a political protestor and a preacher, the City agreed to modify the rules to protect the rights of all, with very limited restrictions for specific types of commercial speech. In a victory for everyone, speech can now flow freely throughout New Orleans, even during the Super Bowl. The ACLU of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans came to a deal on Monday, with the City agreeing to substantially modify the “Clean Zone” regulations that were adopted in advance of the Super Bowl.superdome2

The Clean Zone is, geographically, a huge section of downtown New Orleans covering not just the immediate area around the Superdome, but the entirety of the CBD, the French Quarter, and the Marigny and more. Inside that zone, according to the original rules, residents, visitors and businesses alike would have had their constitutionally protected speech tightly restricted, with the ban covering everything from political and religious messages to the most basic of business advertisements, and even prohibiting flying the American flag.

More details on the changes to the ordinance and the ACLU agreement with the City of New Orleans.

All speech is free, except...
All speech is free, except…

Basic points of the settlement are as follows:

(1)  The City clarified that the Clean Zone applies only to commercial activity. Protestors, religious preachers, Carnival revelers and other individuals not engaged in business can carry signs, flags and other noncommercial displays, provided they obey all other applicable laws.

(2)  Language prohibiting “general advertising,” which could have prohibited local businesses from advertising at their own places of businesses or points of sale, has been eliminated. Businesses may now advertise their products and services on site. However, off-site advertisements (advertisements for products sold elsewhere) and mobile advertisements may still be prohibited without the approval of either the City or the NFL.

(3)  Advertisements, signs and other media otherwise allowed under the Ordinance no longer need to contain NFL-approved content, or NFL look, branding and feel.

(4)  Permission to display advertisements, signs and other forms of media is no longer limited to NFL sponsors. Other businesses may advertise, as long as they comply with the rest of the Clean Zone regulations.

(5)  “Temporary signs” – including advertisements – are no longer prohibited. Businesses may advertise on site with temporary signs. Advertisements with other devices such as billboards, building-wrap banners, LED-displays and A-Frame signs are still restricted.

The Consent Judgment entered into by the City can be found here. The City has published a full list of the changes on its website.

The temporary restraining order imposed by the Court will be lifted now that the Clean Zone regulations have been changed to reflect both Constitutional requirements and the City’s original intent.