Las Vegas Union Doubles Down To Keep New York’s MMA Ban
Hours before UFC officials and fighters were scheduled to hold an event at the state Capitol to re-ignite their push to lift the ban on their sport in New York, opponents of that effort beat them to the punch with an email and graphic video that depicted ultimate fighting as both violent and anti-woman and linked it to the spate of sexual harassment scandals that hit the Legislature last year.
“After a year of men behaving badly in Albany, do our lawmakers really want to send a message to parents and communities in New York that we are going to allow a viciously violent sport into the Empire State? Do we really want a sport whose biggest stars have exhibited disgustingly inappropriate behavior towards women and flagrantly used performance-enhancing drugs?” the email asked.
The email included a link to a YouTube video of UFC fighter Anderson Silva breaking his leg in a title fight last year.
It also notes that women’s rights activists have tried without success to get UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson suspended for his degrading behavior toward women – including a mock rape video he posted on-line and several incidents in which he behaved inappropriately toward female reporters while they were trying to interview him.
In addition, the email highlights the decision earlier this month by UFC/MMA champion Georges St-Pierre to take an indefinite leave as Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion due to the sport’s lack of uniform drug testing for mixed martial arts fighters – a policy that he said “bothered me greatly.”
The email was unsigned but it was sent by Metropolitan Public Strategies, which is the consulting firm founded by Neal Kwatra – a former top aide to AG Eric Schneiderman. Kwatra also happens to be the former political director of the New York Hotel Trades Council, an influential union with deep ties in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where opposition to lifting the MMA ban has prevented the bill from moving forward.
I contacted Kwatra this morning, and he said HTC is not the client he’s representing in this instance. Instead, the interested party is Culinary Local 226 – a local union in Las Vegas that has a long running fight with the majority owners of UFC – Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta – because they happen to also own the Las Vegas-based Station Casinos, which aren’t unionized.
This local Vegas battle has been playing out here in New York for several years, and the MMA bill has been the casualty of that fight.
MMA supporters were hopeful of seeing the legislation move that year – especially since one of its most outspoken opponents, former Assemblyman Bob Reilly, was no longer in office. The UFC said lifting the ban, which has been in place since 1997, would generate some $135 million worth of revenue for the state, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver indicated that it seemed inevitable that MMA would eventually be legal in New York – just like it is now in 49 other states.
But then the sexual harassment scandals started cropping up in the Assembly, increasing the power of the female members of the Democratic conference – including several key lawmakers who are deeply opposed to ultimate fighting.
Now the UFC officials are back in Albany to re-start their campaign to see their sport legalized. They had an event today with fighters, supporters and the bill sponsors – Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Sen. Joe Griffo. They noted that a poll conducted last fall by the Global Strategies Group and commissioned by UFC found support for legalizing MMA in New York is 45-28 percent, and support among those under 45 years old stands at 61-20 percent. When told that MMA is legal in the other 49 states, support among New Yorkers for legalizing it here jumps to 55-32 percent.
“Legal in 49 states. Increases tourism and helps create jobs in the state. Supported by a majority of New Yorkers. Those are the reasons the Governor and Assembly should jump on the bandwagon and finally pass the bill,” siad Ike Lawrence Epstein, senior executive vice president and COO of UFC. “And there’s not a single legitimate reason to keep New York as an outlier in the country and in the world.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on January 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm, and is filed under Assembly, Labor, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|