Same Old Song: NY Senate Passes MMA Legalization, but Assembly Still Iffy

Assembly majority leader Sheldon Silver

The New York State Senate passed the bill to legalize Mixed Martial Arts by a slightly larger margin than last year (43-14), but still faces uncertainty in the State Assembly. In the previous two years, the bill to legalize MMA (full text of bill) passed in the Senate only to be killed in Committee before it can reach the Assembly floor.

Assembly Majority leader Sheldon Silver reiterated his apprehension to the Times Union’s Jimmy Vielkind:

“I have mixed feelings about it,” said Silver at a press conference to announce tenant protection. “On the one hand I do believe it’s rather violent and it sets a tone for people. On the other hand, you can turn on the television and see it, a child can see it from their homes on a regular TV and we’re one of the few states that don’t legalize it. Obviously legalization comes with regulation, and we may be better off having regulation.”


“Members control the process,” he said. “The bill is in the legislative process at this point. We have a committee-driven process and we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of sentiment for it and there’s a lot of sentiment against it.”

“I do believe it’s rather violent and sets a tone for people,” he said, ignoring the violence, injuries, and death associated with other sports. Sure, I’m countering an imbecilic observation with inflammatory rhetoric, but the point remains: if you’re really that worried about a violent sport that encourages violence in spectators, has a higher rate of death and especially paralysis, and cuts the average life expectancy of its participants by over thirty years(!), then there is a sport that needs to be outlawed immediately: football.

I’m not saying we should actually do that. We need to address the problems in the sport, most notably concussions, rather than outlawing it entirely. To an extent that’s already being done, but it’s still worth noting that the advantage MMA has over football and other sports (especially boxing) is that the infrequency of combat combined with the fact that the a fight is supposed to be stopped if even a minor concussion occurs means that its participants are far less likely to have successive minor concussions, which studies are finding to be more common and damaging than we had previously thought.

Of course folks like Silver, Bob Reilly, and others who spout their nonsense have already heard and dismissed these arguments. They’re not concerned with anything other than what they’ve already decided, and if the facts don’t fit they’re ignored. It’s a sad reality of American and especially New York politics: ideologies first, ideas second. But that’s a rant for another time.

I’ve been in contact with a couple different staffers and briefly flirted with the idea of introducing a bill that would outlaw boxing and football based on the criteria used by opponents of Mixed Martial Arts. Mind you, it’s only been discussed as an idea, so it’s not to say that it would definitely happen if I were to press it. I also don’t want to unnecessarily delay and/or endanger the process of a bill to legalize MMA hitting the floor with a stunt like that. But if it doesn’t pass again this year, it’s something I might at least try in order to prove the point that the arguments against and misconceptions surrounding MMA are unfounded and not unprecedented in sports, whether they be in a cage or on the athletic fields of your local high school.


As a side note: this video of internet pundit Steve Crowder is being passed around. Watch it if you must, but don’t put too much stock into it. He’s a year late on a theory that’s already been debunked. The Culinary Union that is lobbying against the legislation is more than happy to claim credit for delaying the process as a means of getting back at the Fertittas (owners of Station Casinos and Zuffa, parent company of the UFC), and their opponents are also more than happy to lay the blame at their feet. This is partially my fault. But I’ve spoken to many, many people on this matter in the past year. Despite what I had been led to believe, even the most staunch critics of MMA are not basing it nor are they in contact with that or any other Union reps on the issue. It’s a smokescreen. Crowder himself might even know this, but this is the same guy who once claimed that The Daily Show was biased (um, yeah?) and bigoted (um, what?) because they sent him a polite rejection letter that, if you read between the lines, essentially says “dude, we have no idea who you are.”

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