This time, the parent company of the UFC and Strikeforce has resorted to a lawsuit filed today in New York U.S. district court against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. According to The Wall Street Journal, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the ban of MMA in New York violates the First Amendment, which states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The portion of the amendment that Zuffa is focusing on is the “freedom of speech” part, which also covers freedom of expression. Because one of the three words in the term “mixed martial arts” is “arts,” Zuffa lawyers will attempt to argue that the sport is a form of artistic expression, and as such, should not be criminalized in the state.
“Live professional MMA is clearly intended and understood as public entertainment and, as such, is expressive activity protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit states.“As is true of ballet, music, or theater, for an audience, attending a live MMA event is an experience that cannot be replicated on a screen.”
The suit was co-signed by Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, Matt Hamill and Brian Stann, who according to court documents “have suffered, and will continue to suffer, irreparable harm” due to the MMA ban in New York.
The case could set a landmark precedent if judgment sides with the plaintiffs as it will be the first successful First Amendment case involving a professional athlete. The floodgates for similar suits could open if the case is ruled in Zuffa’s favor. By rights, other pros like basketball, baseball and football players could arguably sue their respective leagues during lockouts that such practices prevent them from earning a living and cause “irreparable harm and suffering.”
Barry Friedman, a professor at New York University School of Law who is representing Zuffa and its fighters says that the law doesn’t necessarily need to cover all athletes.
“This is the first time to my knowledge that a professional athlete is claiming a First Amendment right to communicate with fans in a live event,” said Friedman.”The courts needn’t declare all sports protected by the First Amendment, because MMA — which, as the name suggests, draws on a mosaic of different fighting styles — is special. It’s martial artistry,” he said. “The nature of martial arts is a lot like dancing.”
I take it he’s never watched a football or basketball game. Tell Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice that they weren’t as graceful as an MMA fighter when they played. Other than that, the lawsuit looks pretty interesting.
Check out the whole thing HERE.