A Fulham football fan is suing the Californian car licensing agency after it rejected his personalised “Come On You Whites” licence plate because it could have “racial overtones”.
Jon Kotler filed a US federal lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming the decision to rebuff the COY-W plate violated his first amendment rights.
It is an abbreviation of a slogan used by fans of Fulham football club, because (you guessed it) players wear white shirts.
The suit claimed the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said it could be considered hostile, insulting, or racially degrading. The DMV would not comment on pending lawsuits.
Kotler, who is a lawyer and a constitutional scholar at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is asking the court to declare the DMV’s criteria for personalised licence plates unconstitutional.
He also wants the department to pay his court costs.
“You can’t allow bureaucrats to make decisions that are fundamental to what it means to be an American, and our free speech is one of those things,” Kotler said in a news release. “When the government starts to infringe on our rights, that’s when the individual citizen must speak up.”
In a 1973 case, the California Court of Appeals upheld the DMV’s standard of “good taste and decency” in rejecting a plaintiff’s claim that his free speech was violated when the department rejected his requested license plate, “EZ LAY.”
Kotler is being represented pro bono by the libertarian-leaning nonprofit, the Pacific Legal Foundation. The group criticised the DMV’s “attempt to make itself the speech police” in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
“You can call Jon a sports fan or a First Amendment expert, but the DMV’s misguided efforts to regulate license plates have misbranded Jon as a racist,” the foundation said.