Opinion: Media Irresponsibility
By Jesse Heitz
As any frequent reader is undoubtedly well aware, one of my sticking points, or prominent focuses of discussion rests on the reputation of Mixed Martial Arts. I have repeatedly made the case that fighters, promoters, fans, and members of the media—particularly the MMA news media, all need to consider the impacts of their words and actions on the fragile reputation of the sport. Yet, there are stories that surface daily that tarnish the good name of this incredible sport.
Granted some are less than noteworthy, but others require analysis, criticism, and discussion. Today is one of those days when an exceptionally irritating story surfaces. The story in question regards the Trayvon Martin murder trial proceedings. News outlets across the nation are releasing headlines such as this one from HLN, “Witness: Zimmerman, Martin in MMA-Style Fight”. The article goes on to discuss how these two were engaged in a tussle on the ground, which apparently featured “ground and pound” and several references to MMA.
The aforementioned story goes on to state,
A prosecution witness testified Friday in the George Zimmerman trial that he saw the former neighborhood watch captain and Trayvon Martin engaged in a mixed martial arts-style fight the night Martin was fatally shot.
Jonathan Good said he heard a faint noise coming from the back of his home in the Retreat at Twin Lakes on February 26, 2012. When he heard a louder noise, he went outside to investigate. He saw two men engaged in a “tussle” on the ground.
Good said it seemed like the person on the bottom was yelling for help. Good said he saw the person on top “straddling”the person on the bottom, and the person on top was moving their hands in a downward striking motion that looked like what he called a “ground and pound,” a term associated with MMA or mixed-martial arts fighting.
“It looked like that position was a ground-and-pound type position, but I couldn’t tell 100% that there were actually fists hitting faces,” said Good.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked Good to define the term “ground and pound.”
“It’s usually when someone is on top in a mounted position, I believe, in the dominant position, but like I said the person on the bottom is able to throw punches back, but I did not see any of that,” said Good.
When reading the story, the actual testimony doesn’t seem too damaging to the reputation of MMA, it merely describes ground and pound and the mount position, an otherwise loose association. Nothing too damning there. It’s the media’s decision to inject the term “MMA” into the story that’s the problem.
I’d like to believe that no level-headed person would latch onto such an irresponsible association, but I fear that in reality such optimistic expectations may not be the case. MMA is still a young and widely misunderstood sport. Even the casual audience still refers to it as “cage fighting”, so what does the generally unfamiliar public think of it? We can’t necessarily know, but having the mainstream media associate it with an emotionally-charged murder trial is not going to push them in the direction of understanding and support.
This is what gets staunch fans frothing at the mouth. The idea that a sport that requires monumental dedication, training, and heart, is associated with a “tussle”. MMA at the professional level is something pure, a magnificent science. A struggle on the ground is no more closely related to MMA than a back-alley street-fight is to boxing. MMA is Kazushi Sakuraba versus Carlos Newton, it’s “Cro Cop” versus Fedor, it’s not a life and death struggle between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.