A funny thing happened on the way to an Obama forum on Friday, and free speech supporters aren't laughing.
Former President Barack Obama invited people — including reporters — to attend a speech he made during the annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The topic at hand was reportedly Obama's reflection on his presidency and his future plans.
But everyone, including media, was forbidden from reporting on anything he said. Punishment was promised for anyone who failed to follow the guidelines. Namely, they'd be barred from attending future sports conferences. The Boston Globe explained:
"During Obama’s panel, photography; video recording; streaming; and social media posting, including on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms will not be permitted — “without exception,” the warning spelled out.
The regulations went for after the event, too.
Following the panel, the sharing or reporting of its contents on public platforms, including social media, will not be permitted,” the notice read. “Those who fail to adhere to this policy will be subject to removal from the conference and denied tickets to future SSAC conferences.”
After the Globe inquired about the rules, a second e-mail said 'sharing or reporting of its contents' is strictly forbidden.
The Globe snapped a picture of Obama leaving the conference and posted it on Twitter, adding, "that's about all we can tell you."
Globe photographer John Tlumacki snapped this photo of former president Barack Obama leaving a Boston sports confer… https://t.co/XLXQ3pbP4A— The Boston Globe (@The Boston Globe)1519426795.0
A WBZ-AM reporter in Boston wrote on Twitter that "we're not supposed to tell you what he says."
Former President Obama is scheduled to speak this afternoon to an MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. We're not… https://t.co/pSAN7CPD2G— Lana Jones (@Lana Jones)1519409757.0
And now the world will never know what pearls of wisdom Obama revealed.
What if Trump tried something like this?
The event was branded a "Soviet-style vacuum" by the Boston Herald.
If nothing else, people could have reported on how boring it was, or local TV stations could have devoted few seconds of air-time to it, columnist Joe Battenfeld wrote Saturday.
"In this country, we don’t allow politicians to issue gag orders," he wrote. "Can you imagine if President Trump had tried to pull this? It would have been called a threat to the First Amendment, and another reason for impeachment."
The event, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, was "sold out."
Other speakers included former New England Patriots player Tedy Bruschi; Boston Red Sox executive vice president and CFO Tim Zue; Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca; ESPN host Katie Nolan; and former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, according to reports.