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UFC Sues New York for Breach of First Amendment Rights

Zuffa has launched another salvo against the state of New York in it’s continued bid to have mixed martial arts regulated in the Empire State.

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.

 

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Mofo- November 17, 2011 at 8:28 am
Not that it makes any difference being a NYC native, but I buy the whole culinary union warfare story.
XENOPHON- November 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm
@whiterice
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Yep....lots of local shows could sure flourish. Since your a NY native, why do you think MMA was given the cold shoulder?
whiterice- November 16, 2011 at 10:20 am
This seems like a desperation play, but who knows, they may give it to them, seeing as the ban is ridiculous anyway.

Living in NYC, I would be more excited to have the ban lifted for the local shows that would inevitably crop up. It'd be great to see a UFC at MSG, but it'd be so expensive, and the tickets would sell out in a second. NY fans have been waiting so long...
Todd M- November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm
@ El Famous Burrito, Man that shit was gold, he will be known as The Grim no longer. PS comments are on fire today, funny shit all round.
XENOPHON- November 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm
I have no opinion about the lawsuit. Freedom of speech and expression is one thing - and for sports people that another - as is the case of them being entertainers.
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Prior to Fox, the fighters could wear bikini bottoms, air music with expletives and foul language, plus their interviews where uncensored. I don't see that this is the case not that FOX is at the helm.
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But as TheWarsawExpress said: this is pressure to facilitate change. A D.A. who is reticent to change - as they might have special interests or ties to competitive venues (such as boxing) might find continued efforts to stovepipe cumbersome - as FOX is a nationalized syndicate and carries much influence of their own.
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Again the big winners are Viacom and Bellator - as if the FOX-Zuffa effort is successful, or if it fails - Bellator (and all the others) will be the direct benificiaries and would have not invested or thrown away a single penny.
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GRIN
EdJPickleMcNastyIII- November 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm
Better constitutional rights take would be this: Prostitution is illegal, but paying "actors" to have sex in front of a camera and thereafter and selling and distributing that video to the public -- that's completely legal under the first amendment according to the Supreme Court.

So likewise, random acts of violence and unsanctioned street fight spectacles in parking lots and things like that are illegal acts of violence. But a fully sanctioned and publicly regulated fight organization with rules and protections for participants would be legal by the same logic. Just like the pornography business, they too are selling and distributing their product to the public. Not only that, there is MUCH greater efforts to ensure the health and well being of UFC/MMA fighters than pornstars.
TheWarsawExpress- November 15, 2011 at 10:41 am
It is sort of frivolous suit, but it puts pressure on the legislature to facilitate change. Sorry about all those syllables. It's within Zuffa's rights to file suit. I just hope they don't lose big. I imagine that they have the support of FOX. Seems timely.
Mofo- November 15, 2011 at 10:27 am
Gina Carano will be irreparably harmed when I do a flying knee to her face. Only, not with my knee.
RwilsonR- November 15, 2011 at 10:25 am
Sorry, Fred. Didn't read your comment.
RwilsonR- November 15, 2011 at 10:24 am
Gina Carano will be irreparably harmed by not being able to fight in MMA? That will never hold up in court.
Mofo- November 15, 2011 at 9:47 am
[I won't *pay* $280]
Mofo- November 15, 2011 at 9:46 am
I live in NYC and I'm fucking excited about this. I'm also convinced it won't amount to shit. Anyway, I won't $280 for nosebleed seats where I'll just watch the monitors all night. Fuck 'em, leave the ban. Lower the price!
Meister574- November 15, 2011 at 9:43 am
Right amendment, wrong clause. UFC should sue sighting "freedom of assembly".
Anhonestmoose- November 15, 2011 at 9:38 am
@skeletor
I agree about the UFC, but this would also allow local promotions to actually have a chance to give local talent a stage. The large population of the city of New York would also give the UFC the possibility of holding events in a larger stadium.
El Famous Burrito- November 15, 2011 at 9:31 am
I hear "Lord of the Dance" Brett Rogers is very interested in the outcome of this case.
skeletor- November 15, 2011 at 9:28 am
I understand the UFC would want to have an event in NY since you can charge triple for anything there. But to sue citing your first amendment rights so you can conceivably hold one maybe two cards a year there is going a little far. I may be biased since I don't live in NY and have no desire to go back there, and the fact that my city hasn't held a UFC event yet even though DW made a shit ton of money betting on our team in the world series this year.
Me likey- November 15, 2011 at 9:26 am
i once did my rendition of swan lake and broke a guys fibula.
Fried Taco- November 15, 2011 at 9:23 am
Gina Carano? Really? That will be a tough one to argue in court.
Art Gibs- November 15, 2011 at 9:21 am
"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.'"

Slow down on the legal analysis there buddy. The 1st Amendment generally only restrains government action, so lockouts wouldn't likely apply.
exect4500- November 15, 2011 at 9:13 am
I read the second paragraph as
"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 Spiderman.
El Famous Burrito- November 15, 2011 at 9:07 am
I've never mugged anybody, but I have gracefully danced their face in and took off with their money.
DangadaDang- November 15, 2011 at 9:05 am
As a New Yorker (Upstate) I gotta say that this is pretty awesome.
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