Advocates for the legalization of mixed martial arts (MMA) in New York gathered in Albany yesterday to combat misconceptions that the sport is violent and misogynistic. The advocates were women.
Via Capitol Confidential:
The advocates, who for four years have seen legalization bills run aground in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, are seeking to knock down the perception — bolstered by the sport’s opponents — that MMA is steeped in a misogynist culture. “Mixed martial arts doesn’t victimize women. Instead it provides tangible tools for us to strengthen and empower ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. It teaches us constant vigilance,” said Juliet Shen, a UAlbany junior who said she first encountered MMA at a self-defense and anti-sexual assault workshop sponsored by her sorority, Delta Phi Lambda.
“Mixed martial arts prepares us for a male-dominated world where we have to work twice as hard just to survive.”
Paula Waddell, a kick-boxing instructor at the Duanesburg Area Community Center, said martial arts have “empowered me with an ability to know that I could physically defend myself if any situation presented itself.”
“Talk of MMA victimizing women is just ridiculous to me on so many levels,” Waddell said. “MMA helps women become more of what they want to be.”
And yet, a bill to legalize MMA continues to stall in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.
Claims from New York Democrats that the bill is being shelved due to various women’s issues are nothing more than a Trojan horse, according to supporters of the measure.
Despite the bill’s having passed in the state Senate several times with a strong co-sponsorship of 64 lawmakers, Democrat opponents have somehow managed to deliver a message that MMA would be bad for the state because of … well … it’s part of the war on women.
For example, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee has been selling the notion to her constituents that MMA promotes a culture of violence, even citing instances of misogynistic statements from particular fighters.
But selectively citing comments from individuals on one side of a debate while ignoring arguments from the other side is the shallowest kind of straw man reasoning.
A Democrat who actually supports the bill to legalize MMA in New York told a local newspaper that the effort was deliberately being shelved because Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, embroiled in controversy surrounding his efforts to suppress the claims of multiple sexual harassment victims at the hands of his own members, would not push an issue that would make him look even worse in the eyes of women voters.
These are the reasons being given as New York continues to be the only state in which MMA is illegal.
New York political strategist John Brodigan calls this a sad development in a state struggling economically:
New York needs the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] a lot more than they need us. They’re doing fine without running events here, the only state where it isn’t legal and a state that needs the added revenue.
How much revenue? Independent studies suggest that four major shows and a few minor ones in the first year alone would result in anywhere between $23 million and $40 million in economic impact for the state.
Aside from the indisputable economic benefits, supporters of MMA claim that the sport’s detractors are using women’s issue as a false front to keep the sport off the radar.
Assemblyman Bill Nojay says, “The reason explained to the public is that it’s a women’s issue or just opposition to violent sports.” He adds, “This has absolutely nothing to do with the Silver sexual harassment issue.” So what is the real reason behind Democrat opposition, led in particular by Silver?
Nojay cuts to the chase: “It’s a shakedown, pure and simple.”
Considerable opposition to MMA in the Empire State comes from a union most New Yorkers have never heard of – a culinary union in Las Vegas. And that stems not from reasonable opposition but, rather, from a personal feud between the union and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) owners.
The New York Post reports:
The Culinary Workers Union 226 from Las Vegas and its parent organization UNITE HERE continue to be significant opposition to MMA in New York, spending money and rallying special interest groups against the sport. But their beef is with UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who own Station Casinos, the largest non-union hotel group in Las Vegas. The feud between the union and the Fertittas has gone on for years and UNITE HERE is exacting revenge with lobbying in New York.
UFC President Dana White pointed out that the union from Las Vegas concentrates their lobbying campaign only in New York.
“In Las Vegas, we put on however many fights a year?” he asked the Post. “How come they’re not writing any letters in Las Vegas? They’re from Las Vegas.”
White added that the union not only campaigns on how terrible the MMA is in New York while ignoring it in Las Vegas, but that the group never voices opposition in other locations across the country. A fact that leads one to conclude that this is more a vendetta than a well thought out argument against the sport itself.
The real reason,” Nojay explains, is that “Silver is holding back approval of UFC MMA events in New York State basically as a shakedown of the shareholder to favorably settle his labor dispute with the union in Las Vegas.” Nojay claims that the union helps fund Silver’s campaign treasury.
Brodigan concurs on the union angle stating, “This whole thing is about the unions and the Democrat Majority being a wholly owned subsidiary of big labor.”
Sure enough, filings show that the Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union 226 donated nearly $1 million in 2010, 100% of which went to Democrats. The parent group UNITE HERE has similar leanings or rather, they too fall down hard to the left.
While the cause is clearly to support union officials in Las Vegas in their personal quibble with UFC promoters, Brodigan points out that it’s actually unionized New Yorkers who are the ones being placed in a submission hold.
While they side with Las Vegas union workers over something that has absolutely nothing to do with mixed martial arts, the NY union workers are the one’s losing out on the jobs. Just take NYC for example. If you have an event at Madison Square Garden or the Barclay’s Center, who working there wouldn’t be a union worker?
And a good number of those workers would likely be women as well.