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Editorial: Blame the WWF

In a tragedy that staggers the imagination, a 14-year-old Queens Village boy has been accused of killing his 10-year-old stepbrother amid reports that he was imitating a professional wrestling move. Prosecutors contend the 10-year-old passed out when his older stepbrother put him in a bear hug. The two brothers loved professional wrestling and were big fans of the WWF.

For the WWF, this is nothing new. Earlier this year a 14-year-old Florida boy was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury that was convinced that he killed a 5-year-old neighbor while playing wrestling. There is no way to accurately count the number of children who have been killed or injured while imitating the dangerous stunts performed by professional wrestlers. But be assured that the two most recent cases are just the tip of the iceberg.

WWF owner Vince McMahon concedes that he feels bad about the children who have been hurt while wrestling, but he is adamant that the WWF and professional wrestling are not to blame. McMahon points out that the WWF was the first to admit that professional wresting is what he calls "sports entertainment." McMahon readily concedes that the action in the ring is nothing more than a scripted show.

Tell that to the boy in Florida who is facing life in prison for a stunt he did when he was only 12. Tell that to the family in Queens Village that already buried one son and may now see their surviving son placed in a juvenile lock up.

Regardless of the admissions mad by McMahon, Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H and other wrestlers do their best each week to convince the children and adults who watch wrestling with a passion that what they see is real. Although they are acting, it is not at all rare for professional wrestlers to suffer serious injuries. Stone Cold, perhaps the most famous wrestler in the world, was sidelined for an entire year with back injuries he suffered in the ring.

Much of what happens in the ring is both real and dangerous. One wrestler was famous for a fight in which he fell from the top of a steel cage and landed on a bed of tacks. Others have fought from the tops of swaying 10-foot ladders. Scripted or not, this stuff is incredibly dangerous.

McMahon knows that impressionable kids imitate the WWF stunts. These children often fail to understand how dangerous the moves they see on television can be. After all, a fighter may be rushed from the auditorium on Saturday night only to come back for more on Tuesday. Maybe they should, but the fact is that these kids don't really realize that they can kill or paralyze a friend with choke slam or a bear hug.

We are no friend of censorship. But neither do we support those who choose to close their eyes to what should be painfully clear to any adult. Children are because they are imitating the dangerous stunts of the WWF and other professional wrestling shows. McMahon and the networks that carry his show must be held accountable. They can and should do more to help children understand the dangers of professional wrestling.

The wrestling industry will counter that it is the responsibility of parents to monitor the play of their children and there is truth in that. But as a million parents will readily concede, it is not easy to counter the influence or professional wrestling. Mr. McMahon should spend some of his millions to educate children about the dangers of the stunts that have made him a wealthy man.

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