Dear UFC: Jokes about Domestic Violence are NEVER Funny

UFC Fighter and TV commentator Chael Sonnen sank to a new low on Sept. 16th when he joked about domestic violence on FOX Television's new national sports channel.
On FOX Sports 1, Sonnen made light of the 2009 assault of Rihanna by her then-boyfriend and R&B singer Chris Brown.

Referring to boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., Chael Sonnen said the following on FOX Sports Live:  "I've never seen anybody in the history of America get so rich and so famous off of having complete wimps throw a punch at their faces. I know what you're saying. You're saying, 'Well, it's happened before, what about Rihanna?'"

Others on the FOX Sports 1 show, including former NBA player Gary Payton, laughed at Sonnen’s domestic violence joke. It was the latest in a series of offensive comments made by Sonnen, who was convicted of money laundering in January 2011.

Last year, Sonnen taunted UFC opponent Anderson Silva by making an offensive comment about how he would treat a woman, in this case Silva’s wife. Sonnen said, "You tell Anderson Silva I'm coming over and I'm kicking down his back door and patting his little lady on the (butt), and I'm telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare, just how I like it.”  Sonnen also referred to UFC “Octagon Girl” Arianny Celeste as the “IQ Card Girl.”

Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 women’s organizations and advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as clergy and academics from 47 U.S. states and 24 countries, have demanded that the UFC put an end to the sexist and homophobic remarks and actions made by UFC fighters and company representatives.

In January of this year, the UFC announced that it adopted a code of conduct for its fighters.    However, the anti-social comments have continued. The promotion still allowed former UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who had posted a mock rape video on the internet, to fight on national television in Chicago. 

FOX Sports --  not Sonnen nor the UFC  -- apologized on the fighter’s behalf for Sonnen’s comments, saying, “They were an inappropriate attempt at humor that Sonnen acknowledges shouldn’t have been made and he apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by his remarks.”  

The statement echoed one UFC executive’s attempt to minimize the offensive nature of the mock online rape video by former UFC fighter “Rampage” Jackson, in which Jackson pretends to assault someone in a parking garage.  The UFC executive said that Jackson had “a very underdeveloped sense of humor.” 

Where is the formal apology from the UFC and its representatives?

And when will the UFC finally hold Sonnen accountable for his anti-social remarks?


video
“What seemed extreme 20 years ago seems almost tame today ... They behave more violently after viewing it in their play and how they treat others. They are less likely to sympathize with victims of violence.”
Dr. Diane Levin, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College in Boston, on the effects of entertainment violence on children





According to Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy, "Fighters from the UFC, which is the professional level of the mixed-martial arts sport, have joked about rape, used foul and abusive language that’s demeaning to women, and used homophobic slurs, all of which, he said, set a bad example for Boston’s youth. He said the sport uses alcohol sponsors to fund the fights, which adds to the negative image that can be imposed on children."

Sign the petition:  Parents Say No to UFC


Keep Cage Fighting Away from Our Children... 


France Says “Non!” to Las Vegas UFC-Style Cage Fighting


The French Sports Ministry, which is headed by Valérie Fourneyron, reconfirmed recently the country’s ban on mixed martial arts (“MMA”), stalling for now hopes that UFC-style cage fighting events will become legal in France.
Responding to a question from a Deputy of the National Assembly, the Sports Ministry stated on July 2: “Free Fight, or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), takes place inside a cage and allows strikes against the opponent while on the ground. The policy of the Ministry has not changed and remains clear. The practice of MMA is not allowed and its events/shows are not permitted.”

The ban was reconfirmed despite lobbying of the French government by Zuffa LLC of Las Vegas, whose Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”) promotes violent spectacles of “free fighting” or “cage fighting” (so-called “mixed martial arts”). Last year, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta called France a “massive opportunity” and said he was “encouraged that you’ll be eating croissants watching the UFC pretty soon.”

Carole Bretteville, President of the Women's Committee for Federation Francaise du Sportd'Entreprise (“FFSE”), applauded the Ministry’s response. “France works very hard to promote equality in all aspects of life, especially in sports,” said Bretteville. “FFSE promotes sport as a unifying force, where management and employees together benefit from shared recreation activities. I was appalled to find out how UFC was lobbying in France, especially when UNITE HERE informed me how UFC has tolerated derogatory statements and attitudes against women. We cannot allow such an organization to destroy all the work we have done to promote equality through French sports. I applaud the Minister’s courage to reject free fighting in France.”

UNITE HERE’s European Development Director Blake Harwell said: “We were not surprised. European attitudes toward such bloody displays date back centuries. Add in the anti-social issues and I'd say Zuffa and the IMMAF have a long way to go to make MMA palatable. No matter what name they call it, cage fighting still fails to meet European expectations for what counts as sport.”

UNITE HERE: U.S. Marine Corps did not renew sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

LAS VEGAS, Dec 19, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- After a nationwide public outcry, the U.S. Marine Corps did not renew its sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Las Vegas-based promoter of cage fighting events.
"We applaud the Marine Corps for taking this important step that respects the dignity of our men and women in uniform," said Beatriz Topete, a U.S. Army veteran and director of the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents more than 250,000 workers in the hospitality industry in North America. "We believe it is time for other sponsors to follow the lead of the Marine Corps and sever all ties with the UFC."
The decision by the Marine Corps follows months of outrage and media attention. Military veterans, LGBTQ activists and survivors of sexual assault publicly called on the Marine Corps to sever its ties with the UFC over violent, homophobic, misogynistic and otherwise socially irresponsible remarks made by UFC fighters and its president, Dana White.
The campaign to end the UFC-Marine Corps partnership was supported by more than two dozen state and national organizations. They included the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Protect Our Defenders, National Institute of Military Justice, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans For Peace, Veterans United For Truth, Women in the Military Project, and Sanctuary Project Veterans, as well as individual survivors of military sexual assault.
"This action by the Marine Corps is a step in the right direction. Military culture for too long has permitted degrading, violent and hate-filled speech and behavior towards men and women," said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, a national group that advocates for survivors of military sexual assault.
Popular UFC fighters have joked about rape on their public Twitter accounts, and made remarks that are demeaning towards women, gays and Latinos. In a disturbing video published in April on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties. Jackson is scheduled to fight on the "UFC on FOX 6" event on Jan. 26th.
Other sponsors or business partners of the UFC include: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Edge Shaving Gel, Electronic Arts, FOX, Harley-Davidson Inc., MetroPCS Communications, MusclePharm, SafeAuto, Toyo Tires, TapouT, and XYIENCE Energy.
SOURCE: UNITE HERE



New York's better than that



From the Editorial Board of the Albany, N.Y. Times Union:
"... If money is the ultimate guide, the Legislature’s latest rematch in the fight to lift the ban on mixed martial arts might be expanded.
So why not legalize, oh, bullfighting? In Mexico, after all, about 1 million jobs are said to be at least indirectly linked to that repulsive sport. In Spain, some 65 million people a year attend bullfights. Think of the money they’re spending, in bullrings and other venues.
Or what about bringing back an entertainment with a history in Albany: cockfighting? If this is all about money, you can’t argue the fact that there used to be a lot of cash changing hands when those bouts were legal. ... "
Chicago Women’s Groups Demand UFC and Fox Drop Main Card Fighter Over “How to” Rape Video

Advocacy groups call on the UFC and FOX to pull fighter “Rampage” Jackson from
Saturday fight at the United Center and Enforce a Meaningful Code of Conduct that Respects Women

Chicago, IL (Jan. 24, 2013)—Today, Chicago women, local groups and national organizations sent a letter to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), FOX executives, and UFC sponsors demanding the cage fighting franchise and television network immediately drop UFC light heavyweight Quinton ”Rampage” Jackson from the Saturday January 26, 2013 UFC on FOX fight for repeatedly denigrating women, including female reporters, and posting a video last year in which he makes light of sexual assault by pretending to rape a woman in a parking garage.  To view the letter, click here.



The video, entitled “How to Pick Up a Gurl…Fast,” was posted on YouTube last April.  In the video, Jackson pretends to attempt to rape a woman, telling viewers to use chloroform to “help her relax,” and buy zip ties.  At one point Jackson states that he hopes his target “got low self-esteem.”  To watch the video, click here.

According to the letter:  “The UFC must begin holding its fighters accountable for their actions and adopt a meaningful code of conduct…The behavior of Rampage Jackson, UFC President Dana White and other UFC fighters is unacceptable.  Misogynistic and sexist behavior can no longer be tolerated in the UFC.“


Representatives from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Rape Victims Advocates, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, Between Friends, Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción, along with seven clergy leaders from the Chicagoland area, the 8th Day Center for Justice, 20 professors and staff from seven Chicagoland area universities, and labor union UNITE HERE signed the letter calling on the UFC and FOX to immediately pull Jackson from the event. 

The UFC has not issued an official discipline of Jackson nor issued a public statement about Jackson’s offensive and inappropriate video.  Rather than punish Jackson, the UFC scheduled Jackson to fight at the United Center on Saturday.

Because irresponsible remarks and actions in the UFC do not end with Jackson (http://www.unfitforchildren.org/p/misogyny.html), the women’s groups and other organizations are also demanding the UFC adopt and enforce a meaningful code of conduct.

“This is truly appalling and undermines the work we do every day,” says Athanasia Papaioannou, Assistant Director of the University of Illinois Chicago Women’s Leadership and Resource Center.  

The Culinary Union Has Uncovered Some Disturbing Facts About "UFC on FOX 5"



"..now they’ve uncovered some information about undercard fighter and debuting UFC lightweight Abel “Killa” Trujillo that is simply too glaring to overlook"
"...Or should an organization that showcases violence on as grand a scale as the UFC tread a little more lightly when dealing with the kind of fighters that could soil the name they’ve worked so hard to build and protect?"

Full Article HERE

"UFC on FOX 5": Unfit For Primetime


December 4, 2012

Mr. Eric Shanks
Co-President
FOX Sports Media Group
10201 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles CA  90035

Re:  The UFC and FOX show poor judgment in the selection of fighters to compete on “UFC on FOX 5” event

Dear Mr. Shanks:

We are writing to alert you about two UFC fighters who are scheduled to compete on the “UFC on FOX 5” event on December 8th at the KeyArena in Seattle. Attached you will find the Trial Information in the pending criminal case involving one UFC fighter, and two guilty pleas entered into by the other UFC fighter.

Jeremy Dean Stephens, a professional cage fighter who competes under the nickname “Lil’ Heathen,”[1] has been charged with Willful Injury Causing Serious Injury (Class C felony), Burglary in the First Degree (Class B felony), and Assault Causing Bodily Injury (Serious Misdemeanor).  A trial in the case is currently schedule for January 9, 2013.

Abel Nazario Trujillo, another cage fighter scheduled to compete on the UFC fight card on Dec. 8th in Seattle,[2] has twice pleaded guilty to Domestic Abuse Assault Causing Bodily Injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. In both cases, the victim was identified as the mother of his child. In May 2007, Trujillo also pleaded guilty to Obstruction of an Emergency Communication. In the plea agreement, Trujillo acknowledged that the crime required the State to prove that his alleged assault victim was making a 911 call, Trujillo knew that she was making a 911 call, and Trujillo hung up the phone. Trujillo competes under the nickname “Killa.”[3]

These criminal cases raise serious questions about FOX’s programming judgment. At minimum, FOX and the UFC should wait for the resolution of an upcoming jury trial related to the allegations against Stephens before allowing Stephens to fight on FOX. The trial is scheduled for January 9th in Iowa.

Stephens was arrested on October 5th in Minneapolis on an Iowa warrant, just hours before his previously scheduled fight on UFC.[4]

One of the victims of the alleged assault is identified as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army who has dedicated his career to military service and has been deployed overseas multiple times, according to a 2010 article.[5] This should be of concern to FOX, given that fans of cage fighting events and regular viewers of FOX likely include military veterans and active-duty soldiers who, along with their families, have paid a great sacrifice to our country.

The UFC already has a troubled relationship with some leaders in the veterans’ community and advocates for survivors of sexual assault, who believe the cage fighting organization has not done enough to prevent socially irresponsible speech among its fighters.[6]  UFC fighters have made jokes about rape, homophobic slurs and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women.

In a disturbing video published in April 2012 on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties.[7]  Jackson is scheduled to fight on the “UFC on FOX 6” event on Jan. 26th in Chicago.[8] At a public press conference in December 2011, UFC fighter Rashad Evans taunted his opponent by threatening to act like former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who at the time faced more than 50 counts of sexual misconduct involving young boys.[9] In other cases, UFC fighters have made light of rape on their Twitter accounts.[10]

You can find more incidents of offensive behavior among people associated with the UFC at the following website: www.UnfitForChildren.org

As reported by FOX News, this summer more than 10,000 people nationwide signed a petition calling on the U.S. Marine Corps to renounce its support of the UFC and to refrain from using taxpayer money to sponsor the organization.[11]  A veterans committee of UNITE HERE delivered these petitions to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos; to Marine Corps recruiting stations in 10 cities; to Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and to the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

Leaders of more than a dozen state and national organizations that advocate on behalf of veterans and/or survivors of sexual assault have called on the military to sever ties with the UFC. These groups include the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, National Institute of Military Justice, Protect Our Defenders, Women in the Military Project, Veterans For Peace, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans United for Truth, and the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, among others.

The UFC was no doubt aware of the criminal charges against Jeremy Stephens at the time in which it announced on November 23rd that Stephens would fight on Dec. 8th on FOX[12]. The alleged assault was widely publicized in the national news media. FOX Sports, ESPN, New York Post and USA Today, among other media outlets, reported details of the arrest and an unsuccessful effort by the UFC to get Stephens out of jail on bail in time for a UFC fight in Minneapolis on October 5th.[13]

Stephens’ management agency, Evolution Agent, released a statement denying that Stephens was involved in the alleged assault. [14] According to the statement, Stephens attended a party in Des Moines in which a physical altercation occurred, and Stephens’ “name came up during the police investigation of the assault.”[15]

Less than 48 hours after Stephens’ arrest in Minneapolis on Oct. 5th, UFC President Dana White was quoted in USA Today and the New York Post as saying he believed Stephens’ assertion that he was innocent. “I’m taking [Stephens’] word for it,” White was quoted as saying. “Man to man, that’s what he says, and I’m going to take his word for it. I believe him.” [16] White was also quoted as saying he was willing to pay an “astronomical amount of money” to bail Stephens out of jail in time for the Oct. 5th UFC fight in Minneapolis.[17]

White’s rush to support Stephens following his arrest was criticized by some in the media.[18] Josh Gross of ESPN wrote, “[White] can’t know the truth about Stephens, yet he pushed and pushed to get him out on bond so he could fight in a cage the same night? Think about the optics, which probably has more to do with public relations but also delves into real-world business. Where’s the benefit to the UFC?”[19]

There are other professional cage fighters with better fight records. As noted on UFC.com, Stephens has lost three of his last five contests in the UFC.[20]  Why isn’t a different cage fighter scheduled to fight on December 8th on FOX?

In light of the concerns cited above, we strongly encourage FOX to wait for the resolution of the jury trial in Iowa related to the alleged assault before allowing Stephens to fight on your network.

We also ask you to contact us within ten (10) days of receiving this letter to discuss further these concerns. For more information, please call Chris Serres at (702)-386-5231 or send an e-mail to cserres@culinaryunion226.org.


Regards,

Chris Serres
Research Analyst
Culinary Workers Union, Local 226
UNITE HERE


Cc:       Mr. Randy Freer, Co-President, FOX Sports Media Group
Mr. Peter Rice, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, FOX Networks Group
Mr. Lou D’Ermilio, Senior Vice President, Communications, FOX  Sports Media Group
Mr. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corp.
Mr. John Entz, Executive Vice President, Production, FOX Sports Media Group
Ms. Ileana Pena, Director of Communications, FOX Sports Media Group
Mr. Chris Bellitti, Vice President, Corporate Communications, FOX Sports Media Group
Mr. John Landgraf, President and General Manager, FX Network
Ms. Shannon Ryan, Executive Vice President, FOX Broadcasting Company
Ms. Laurel Bernard, Executive Vice President, Marketing, FOX Broadcasting Company
Mr. Joe Earley, Chief Operating Officer, FOX Broadcasting Company
Mr. Mike Hopkins, President, Distribution, FOX Networks Group
            Ms. Natalie Bancroft, Director, News Corp.
            Mr. James Breyer, Director, News Corp.
            Mr. Chase Carey, Director, News Corp.
            Ms. Elaine Chau, Director, News Corp.
            Mr. Viet Dinh, Director, News Corp.
            Sir Roderick Eddington, Director, News Corp.
            Mr. Lachlan Murdoch, Director, News Corp.
            Mr. Stanley Shuman, J.D., Director Emeritus, News Corp.
            Mr. Arthur Siskind, Senior Adviser to Chairman, Director Emeritus, News Corp.
            Mr. Joel Klein, Executive Vice President, News Corp.
Mr. Gerson Zweifach, Senior Executive Vice President, Group General Counsel, News Corp.
Mr. Reed Nolte, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations, News Corp.
            Shareholders of News Corp.





[1]  UFC.com, “Stephens Promises to Unveil the Best “Lil’ Heathen” Yet,” May 11, 2012, http://www.ufc.com/news/Stephens-Promises-to-Unveil-the-Best-Lil-Heathen
[3]  UFC.com, “UFC on FOX – Saturday, Dec. 8, FIGHT CARD,” http://www.ufc.com/event/FOX5/printFightCard
[4]  Associated Press, “Jeremy Stephens Arrested: UFC Fighter Taken Into Custody On Felony Assault Warrant Before Fight,” Oct. 6, 2012, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/06/jeremy-stephens-arrested-ufc-fighter-minneapolis_n_1944384.html
[6]  Hlad, Jennifer, “Groups call on Marines to sever ties with UFC,” Aug. 21, 2012, Stars and Stripes, http://www.stripes.com/news/groups-call-on-marines-to-sever-ties-with-ufc-1.186433; Harkins, Gina, “Veterans push Marines to break with UFC,” July 16, 2012, Marine Corps Times, http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2012/07/marine-ufc-protest-petition-union-071612http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2012/07/marine-ufc-protest-petition-union-071612; Drummond, Katie, “The Military’s UFC Feud: Union, Vets Want Sponsorship Axed,” July 18, 2012, Forbes.com, http://www.forbes.com/sites/katiedrummond/2012/07/18/ufc-marines/; French, Lauren, “Lawmakers eye military sports sponsorship budget for cuts,” July 16, 2012, Reuters, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/07/16/us-lawmakers-sports-idUKBRE86F1B320120716
[7] YouTube video, “Rampage Jackson – How To Pick Up A Gurl – Fast.mov,” April 5, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfG5amLtWEQ
[8]  UFC.com, “More Bouts Booked For Fox Show in Chicago,” Nov. 27, 2012, http://www.ufc.com/news/ufc-on-fox-6-fight-card-update
[9]  YouTube video (From 1:05 to 1:10), “Rashad Evans Spars with Phil Davis, Penn State Scandal,” Dec. 8, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTmTxSqfN5I
[10]  McNeil, Franklin, “UFC fires Miguel Torres for tweet,” Dec. 9, 2011, ESPN.com, http://espn.go.com/mma/story/_/id/7334939/ufc-releases-miguel-torres-rape-van-twitter-post; The Huffington Post, “Forrest Griffin Rape Jokes: MMA Fighter Sparks Controversy on Twitter,” Nov. 9, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/09/forrest-griffin-rape-jokes-twitter_n_1084471.html
[11] Miller, Joshua Rhett, “Union committee wants UFC-Marine partnership knocked out,” Aug. 22, 2012, FoxNews.com, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/22/veterans-group-wants-ufc-marine-sponsorship-knocked-out/
[12] UFC.com, “Seattle Loses Schaub-Johnson Scrap,” Nov. 29, http://www.ufc.com/news/UFC-on-FOX-5-fight-card-updates
[13] Associated Press, “UFC’s Stephens arrested before fight,” Oct. 6, 2012, Fox Sports, http://msn.foxsports.com/ufc/story/jeremy-stephens-arrested-felony-warrant-morning-of-ufc-fight-100512; Morgan, John, “Dana White tried to bail out fighter before UFC on FX,” Oct. 7, 2012, USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mma/2012/10/06/ufc-dana-white-jeremy-stephens-bail-out/1616643/; Gross, Josh, “Stephens steals show with no-show,” Oct. 8, 2012, ESPN.com, http://espn.go.com/mma/story/_/id/8475974/jeremy-stephens-steals-show-no-show
[14] ESPN Staff, “Stephens held in jail after arrest,” Oct. 10, 2012, http://www.espn.co.uk/ufc/sport/story/174140.html
[15] Ibid.
[16] Morgan, John, “Dana White tried to bail out fighter before UFC on FX,” Oct. 7, 2012, USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mma/2012/10/06/ufc-dana-white-jeremy-stephens-bail-out/1616643/; Raimondi, Marc, “UFC prez tried to pay `astronomical amount’ to bail fighter out of jail,” Oct. 6, 2012, http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/the_main_event/ufc_prez_tried_out_pay_astronomical_MarEbpOlYw0HZtsEwDhmFK#axzz2DdvzqP00
[17] Ibid.
[18] Dundas, Chad, “UFC handles crises by its own book,” Oct. 9, 2012, ESPN.com, http://espn.go.com/blog/mma/post/_/id/14637/ufc-handles-crises-by-its-own-book; Rondina, Steven, “Jeremy Stephens’ Arrest Fiasco Huge Misstep by UFC, Dana White,” Oct. 5, 2012, Bleacher Report, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1360773-jeremy-stephens-arrest-fiasco-huge-misstep-by-ufc-dana-white
[19] Gross, Josh, “Stephens steals show with no-show,” Oct. 8, 2012, ESPN.com, http://espn.go.com/mma/story/_/id/8475974/jeremy-stephens-steals-show-no-show

Veterans Object to UFC Sponsorship



We urge the U.S. Marine Corps to renounce its support of the UFC immediately.

--
Military veterans call for an end to the military's sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Veterans say taxpayer money should not be used to support a cage fighting company that has tolerated rape jokes, homophobic slurs and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women. The UFC is "Unfit for the Corps."

Is Mandy Moore a good role model?


As a role model for young women, it is surprising that Mandy Moore would consider herself a "groupie" of the UFC. Should role models support an organization that has a history of tolerating homophobic, misogynistic, violent, and socially unacceptable speech by people associated with it?

                                                        Sign petition here!


For Immediate Release
Aug. 9, 2012
Molly Shearer:  917-376-0013
Chris Serres: 702-386-5231

Advocates call on Marine Corps to cease funding of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

New York, NY  --  Outraged by sexist and homophobic remarks, a delegation of  military veterans, labor activists, and organizations opposed to violence against women today will deliver more than 10,000 petitions to an Armed Forces recruiting station in Times Square, calling on the U.S. Marine Corps to cease funding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

“The military’s sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship does a disservice to our men and women in uniform,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, a national group that advocates for survivors of military sexual assault. “UFC fighters have repeatedly used homophobic and sexist behavior and remarks without censure by the UFC. We call on Defense Secretary Panetta to immediately stop funding the UFC.  Our military should not tolerate denigrating attitudes and behaviors toward women. It can and should be a model for equal opportunity, and it should sponsor organizations that reflect that principle.”

The Marine Corps has spent more than $2 million sponsoring the UFC, the nation’s largest promoter of cage fighting events. The Marines have continued to air commercials during televised UFC events, even after groups have publicly criticized the UFC for tolerating jokes about rape, homophobic slurs and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women. To watch a video of veterans objecting to the military’s sponsorship of the UFC, click here: http://youtu.be/t_cjTZCrMeQ

The offensive remarks by people associated with the UFC conflict with the Defense Department’s stated commitment to tolerance and to diversity in the military. In a June 15th videotaped message recognizing Gay Pride Month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America’s military a model of equal opportunity.”  In addition, Mr. Panetta said the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law “reminds us that integrity and respect remain the cornerstones of our military culture.”

Since May, more than 10,000 people nationwide have signed a petition calling on the Marine Corps to “renounce its support of the UFC immediately” and to refrain from using taxpayer money to support the UFC. For more information, visit www.UnfitfortheCorps.org

According to a poll on the official blog of the Marine Corps, 65 percent of respondents as of July 31st voted “No” to the question, “With a veterans group coming out against the practice, do you think the Marine Corps should continue to support the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)?”

“As a U.S. Army veteran, I am very disturbed by the relationship between the Marine Corps and the UFC,” said Jess Corbett, a U.S. Army veteran from New Haven, Conn. who will join the delegation in Times Square. “When a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine enlists, they swear to uphold principles like honor, loyalty, selfless service, personal courage, respect and integrity. By aligning itself with the UFC, the Marine Corps is dishonoring every man and woman who wears the uniform. I would hope that in light of certain hateful remarks that the Marine Corps would make the right decision and sever ties with the UFC.”

In an Aug. 1 letter to Defense Secretary Panetta, leaders of a broad coalition of local, state and national organizations committed to promoting tolerance and diversity in the military demanded that Mr. Panetta immediately cease taxpayer funding of the UFC. For a copy of the letter to Mr. Panetta, click here:  http://bit.ly/lttrPanetta

What:    Delivery of 10,000 petitions demanding the military cease funding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship

When:    Noon/12  p.m. EDT on Thursday, Aug. 9th, 2012

Where:  Times Square Armed Forces Recruiting Station, at 43rd Street and Broadway in New York

Why:  Taxpayer money should not be used to support homophobia, misogyny and hate speech

###