It's another win for freedom—the freedom to consensually beat the crap out of each other in front of a cheering, paying audience. New York's Assembly, after deflecting the issue for years, has voted this week to end the state's ban on professional mixed martial arts (MMA) sports events.
Tuesday's vote marks the end of all state bans on the sport come August, assuming Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill as he has pledged. New York was the final holdout and has been keeping this very popular, very mainstream sport out of the state for 19 years now (Read the history of New York banning MMA events here).
Although the bill passed easily (the major force keeping it from the Assembly floor was former Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of corruption), there were still government nannies who took it as a point of pride to say they should use their authority to control how Americans entertain themselves. From Gannett's New York reporting:
Some Democrats remained opposed to the measure, including Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, who spoke out Tuesday against the violent nature of the sport. In UFC bouts, fighters battle in eight-sided cages, with the violent bouts frequently ending with bloodied fighters and a knockout or chokehold.
"Cage fighting, also known as MMA, has no place in a civilized society," Jaffee said on the Assembly floor. "It is a spectacle of violence. Except for those who stand to profit from this barbaric entertainment masquerading as a sport, cage fighting causes great harm."
Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, was more graphic during the Assembly's debate, likening the sport ? in which fighters wear little clothing and frequently grapple—to "gay porn with a different ending." O'Donnell, who is openly gay, said money was fueling the effort to overturn the ban — both the lobbying funds spent by UFC and the money gambling interests stand to gain.
"Not a single person is harmed in this state or this country based on our failure to let them do this," O'Donnell said. "But if we do let them do it, more people are going to become addicted to gambling, more people are going to see violence, more people are going to turn to violence as a mechanism to express how they feel."
"Failure to let them do this" is a very interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "absolutely awful") way to describe using the force of law to threaten people with fines and arrest for doing things with their bodies that O'Donnell does not approve of. If only there were other examples of the government controlling what two men were permitted to do to each other because people thought it would corrupt society in a bad way.
But as a reminder, this sort of nannying was not just confined to the left. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) famously used his power to try to keep MMA fights off television. But the sport is now more popular than ever.