If all the UFC track-record of hate speech and rape jokes has you mad as hell… now’s your chance! There’s a Nevada Athletic Commission hearing Feb. 22 at the Grant Sawyer Bldg. starting at 9 am and they are looking for public comments!
Below is a Letter to the Editor that I wrote and submitted to the Nevada Athletic Commission for their public comments section of the hearing — and don’t forget to sign the petition:
On Feb. 22 the Nevada Athletic Commission will be holding a workshop soliciting public comment regarding the mixed martial arts, which includes The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). This is an opportunity for people from across our community to voice our concerns about a long-standing and well-documented pattern of hate speech, offensive behavior, and in recent months a spate of inappropriate jokes about rape and sexual violence (for more on that go to: https://sincitysiren.wordpress.com/ufc-campaign).
Athletes are role models in our society and it’s time that those in the UFC acted like it. It is time for the UFC to join the ranks of other professional sports organizations, including the NFL, NBA, and NHL, and enact a code of conduct.
This year The UFC entered a new frontier in its growth as an organization as it debuted in the prime time with a reported $700 million deal with FOX Sports. Indeed, The UFC is everywhere! There are even UFC fighter action figures at Toys R Us. It’s clear that The UFC is here to stay and its reach is growing all the time. Because of this, there has never been a better time to take their brand to the next level and create a code of conduct to address those times when fighters – or even top brass, like President Dana White who tweeted a prison rape joke just before Christmas – step out of line.
And let’s face it, The UFC is our home-grown, home town sports franchise. You can barely pass a TV or a billboard without seeing the faces of fighters. And these fighters are not just celebrities to millions of fans and twitter followers – which they are – they are also our neighbors. On countless occasions I’ve been in line behind a UFC fighter or sat eating breakfast a few tables over from a UFC headliner.
Because of our very proximity to them, who better than those in our very community to embrace the UFC – as so many of us do, including in my own household – but also to hold them accountable?
I know Dana White has said that he is not going to cave to some “bullying” moms or some vocal minority of people. I understand that he has a brand that he’s worked hard to cultivate and part of that brand is the Wild West philosophy that “boys will be boys.” But that’s a cop out and it’s a disservice to countless fans and members of our community, not to mention all over the world.
The idea that men can’t help themselves but to be tempted to rape, and therefore find rape funny, is idiotic at best. By remaining silent when his fighters step out of line and when he himself perpetuates the stereotype that rape is just a part of the male “boys will be boys” culture, he is condoning rape and further implicating it into the fabric of our society. There is no context when rape or any form of sexual violence is funny. Just ask the survivors who have come forward in the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Ask Olympic Boxing Champion Sugar Ray Leonard. Or ask an everyday survivor, like me.
Condoning rape jokes and hate speech sends a terrible message to countless fans as well as the community at large. It strips sexual assault survivors of their dignity. It robs LGBTQ individuals of the basic human respect they deserve. And much more.
And like I said, we are a household that likes sports. In fact, my husband is a fan of The UFC. But after Forrest Griffin tweeted that “rape is the new missionary” in November and then a month later Rashad Evans made a grotesque joke about the Penn State sex abuse scandal during a live press conference – all while White stayed publicly silent – it suddenly seemed wrong to enjoy The UFC. And my husband is not alone. Just take to the MMA blogs, talk to journalists who cover MMA, or even talk to fans. I can’t tell you how many MMA fans have told me they are glad that the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence, and the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center at UNLV, as well as sexual violence survivors like myself are working on this campaign.
As one long-time MMA fan who’s been working toward getting cage fighting legalized in New York told me, a code of conduct “…is long over-due. But it’s only going to change because people outside of MMA are finally asking for it.”
And we are asking. More than 500 people are asking for a code of conduct on a Change.org petition! And more are signing every day!
This is a reasonable request.
After all, when Kobe Bryant made an inappropriate gay-slur on the basketball court last year, he was disciplined by the NBA immediately. There was swift, clear action that sent a clear message: Hate speech is not to be tolerated. And that’s what a code of conduct can do – provide a blue print for swift action as well as a guiding set of principles for the fighters themselves. Athletes may be role models, but they are also human. And having a code of conduct can help them get back on track when mistakes happen, too.
Up until recently, it’s been easy for Dana White to shrug off his responsibility as the leader of The UFC. But The UFC is not some small up-start anymore. It is in the big leagues and it’s time for them to start acting like they belong there.
I don’t want to end The UFC. But as a Las Vegan, I deserve better from the local heroes who address the kids at my neighborhood school. As a mother, my daughter deserves a better class of athlete to look up to while she watches sports in our home. And as someone who has experienced sexual violence, I deserve the respect and dignity of surviving what no one can understand unless they’ve been through it themselves.
It’s time The UFC grew up. It’s time for a code of conduct.