Does the First Amendment protect the right to stage a mixed martial arts contest before a paying audience? That's what the Ultimate Fighting Championship is arguing in a new lawsuit challenging New York's 1997 law prohibiting such bouts. As The Wall Street Journal reports:
While the arts are protected, no court has ever directly confronted the question of whether athletes have a First Amendment right to be seen in action, said Barry Friedman, a professor at New York University School of Law who is representing the plaintiffs.
"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, Friedman said.
"It's martial artistry," he said. "The nature of martial arts is a lot like dancing."
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