As regular readers know, The Sin City Siren has joined with organizations and concerned individuals — many of them parents — to urge the Ultimate Fighting Championship to enact a code of conduct to discipline fighters and management when they have used offensive and inappropriate language, including a rash of recent episodes of hate speech and the much-reported rape joke tweet by Forrest Griffin. We held a rally on Saturday, the same day UFC debuted on prime time, to raise awareness about the issue and highlight the need for a code of conduct, similar to that of many other major sports organizations, such as the NBA and NFL.
It’s simple: Professionals have to act like professionals.
With all due respect to Charles Barkley (who despite his early 90s protest that athletes are not role models has since become a kind of role model of acceptance for gay athletes in pro sports), the fact that professional athletes are role models is not news. But this only serves to highlight why a burgeoning sport like UFC needs to act and create a code of conduct.
Since the rally, I’ve been doing some interviews with different media including print, TV, online, podcast, and KNPR. In truth, I’m a little surprised that this story has such legs. However, for my part, I am glad that I am able to bring awareness about how language and the use of social media shapes discussion and perception of survivors of sexual violence. How we talk about things and people — like using hate speech to talk about the LGBT community — is a powerful way to reinforce negative stereotypes and negative ideas about entire communities. And that’s why so many people are coming together to flip the script on hate speech.
One of the things I’ve discovered while working on this rally and campaign — a lot of sports journalists really, really hate UFC. And this includes some very well established Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) journalists and champions. Who knew? Apparently, there’s plenty of bad blood to go around when it comes to the UFC. One MMA journalist in New York told me that he hates to even watch the UFC fights anymore. Wow! Now, that’s some bad blood! And there were plenty of tells by other sports journalists who, if you were listening to how they worded their questions, you could tell were ready to write a story that took UFC to task for their behavior as an organization. In truth, I think there are plenty of sports fans and sports writers who have been waiting for an opportunity to tell UFC to straighten up their act.
As a former news journalist for 10 years, I admit, I was really surprised to get such a seemingly warm reception on this story. Sports newsrooms are just about the biggest boys clubs I have ever walked in to. And it is practically stating the obvious that in our society that the world of sports is considered a man’s domain — regardless of the fact that women make up nearly half of the fan base of all major sports. So, as a woman, a mother, and a feminist going into this rally and campaign, I was expecting a lot more heat from the “opposition” presented by interviewers trying to say, in code, that basically women don’t like sports or women don’t get UFC or feminists are lesbians who hate men and therefore sports. You know the drill. In fact, the closest I’ve experienced to that is when the KNPR interviewer kept asking the audience if all of this was just “boys will be boys”? (But I suspect that was more of a bait to get people to call in to the show.) As it turns out, the boys club is mighty pissed at UFC. So, there’s some food for thought, Dana White.
Another point that has come up, although not as often, is what, if any, connection do I have to the Culinary Union, which has been a silent partner in this campaign. My answer is: I have no connection to the Culinary Union. I am not a member. No one in my household is a member. That said, I will say that I do not have a problem with unions or casinos or gaming corporations. (Full disclosure: My husband works at a gaming corporation.) And it is naive to think that in a town that is essentially run on the industry of gaming and its assorted unions, that at some point paths won’t cross. If an entity as powerful as the Culinary wants to help a small campaign by some local parents, why should we say no? The only thing I regret is not being more transparent about this issue earlier on. It’s the lack of transparency that breeds suspicion. As a former journalist, I get that. In the end, it is up to you to decide if you believe me. Look at my track record. Decide for yourself.
My last observation (so far), is that this whole campaign has reminded me why I like sports so much. I admit, I don’t have super-fan zeal for sports, like some. But the hum of sports is on in my house most days, especially Saturday and Sunday. I enjoy talking college football with a few dedicated friends on facebook. And I have always found the community of sports to be a constant unifier amongst people that can seem to have absolutely nothing in common (or, in fact, hate each other). I have talked BCS standings with millionaires and shared box seats with powerful men. I have convinced bosses to allow a portable radio in the office during March Madness. I’ve gone to MLB and NFL games (still hoping for an NBA game). Sports are exciting. They are dramatic. They can make you feel at home when you’re homesick, like when I watched nearly all of the NBA championship series by myself when I first moved here 12 years ago. (I’m a Blazers fan, so you can guess the amount of cussing coming from my apartment at the conclusion of that series.) Sports can offer running jokes within families — like the fact that my husband, his brother and his brother’s wife all went to my college rival. (It’s lonely being a Duck in the Bristol clan, but ask them how well the Beavs are doing lately.)
Indeed, sometimes it feels lonely to be a female, feminist, sports fan. But that’s okay. All I need to do is wear my team colors or fly my car flag and I can find friends I never knew I had.