Opinion: The MMA Debate in Connecticut
By Jesse Heitz
Yet again, one of my all-time favorite topics of discussion has risen to the surface, which naturally prompts a response. The topic of which I speak is the ongoing state-to-state debate on the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts. However, this time the story doesn’t center on New York and a few old and rusty curmudgeons that have the ability to dictate the destiny of a single sport in their region. No, this time the debate is taking place next door in Connecticut as highlighted by an interesting article in the “Hartford Courant”.
Bill 5277 was introduced to the Connecticut State Legislature on Thursday for a hearing. The bill seeks to grant Connecticut’s Department of Public Safety the power to regulate MMA, including prescribing certain safety measures and rules, and assessing fees for promoters, officials and participants.
Proponents of the bill argue that in a 5% gate tax, one event at Hartford’s 16,000 seat XL Center could bring in some $350,000 in tax revenue, as well as hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for local businesses. This undoubtedly seems like a win-win for a state that finds itself economically hurting, with an unemployment rate of 8.6%, well above the national average.
In Speaking with the “Hartford Courant”, State Senator Andres Ayala Jr. stated “… I’d like to reward the people in Bridgeport, I’d like to reward the workers in Connecticut. We are in a downshift in our economy, where folks are struggling to get by, where the people in the district that I represent, when the lights are out in the local arena, they don’t work.”
State Representative Dave Yaccarino, echoed Senator Ayala’s sentiments, stating “But I personally would like to see them come here. I don’t live in Hartford, I don’t live in Bridgeport, but our Connecticut economy needs it. When regulated and done properly, it’s a viable sport.”
As always, there are opponents to even the most logical of things, and such is the case in Connecticut, where surprisingly it was union officials, not politicians, that raised the most objections to the legalization of MMA in the state.
In speaking with the “Hartford Courant”, Lori J. Pelletier, secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, stated, “In the ring, it’s a violent sport” and proceeded to ramble on about a supposed plethora of infractions perpetrated by fighters, such as rape jokes, making homophobic comments, and making other offensive comments.
Melissa Mason, a legislative liaison with United Here, a labor union that represents workers in the travel and hospitality industries stated, “Why in a state that has just suffered the second deadliest school shooting in history would we even consider exposing our children to the violent misogyny and perverse forms of masculinity that are celebrated in the world of cage fighting?”
It is abundantly clear that both of these union bosses are serving up obviously biased and downright slanderous and irresponsible opinions in the furtherance of their strategic goals. Ms. Pelletier made such motivations crystal clear when she stated, “To reward those people that are the owners of the casino… that are mistreating those workers and have them make money here in Connecticut just seems counterintuitive to me”. It seems rather evident that at a minimum, there is some sort of grudge being held against Station Casinos, and by proxy Zuffa, which then translates to the whole of MMA.
I’m all for individuals being able to openly express their opinions with the intent of furthering an honest dialogue, but when so-called “labor leaders” come to the microphone and blabber about some vendetta against one company that has poisoned their thinking to such a degree that they stereotype an entire sport and move to block its expansion, which would help the very people you supposedly represent, then it’s time to sit down and let the adults talk.