UFC dodges claims by Boston activists that MMA is unfit for eyes of children
It was a case of too little, mostly late for Boston activists hoping to throw a wrench into UFC’s plans for a clean card at Fight Night 26 at TD Garden this Saturday (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1).
Last week a group including UNITE HERE and Mass. NOW (The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women) attempted to remove fighter Chael Sonnen from the main event of the Boston card, citing his money laundering conviction in 2011. Sonnen received two years probation on a single count of money laundering. He has already fought four times since the court case. Despite the Boston groups’ pleas, Sonnen will fight Saturday night.
This past Tuesday, UNITE HERE and other local groups submitted statements before the Boston City Council in support of Councilor Stephen Murphy’s cage fighting resolution which wants to ban persons under the age of 18 from attending live events. Murphy and “Parents Say No to UFC” claim that UFC fighters have, in the past, joked about rape and have used other language that is demeaning to women. They also take issue with UFC having alcoholic beverage companies as its main sponsors despite other professional sports leagues having done the same for decades.
Their main issue with the MMA organization, however, is centered around the level of violence in its matches and how it affects children.
Metro spoke with Diane Levin, a professor of education at Wheelock College who supports Murphy’s ban on persons under 18 attending cage fighting events, regarding her stance.
“There’s no one particular age where it definitely should be allowed, but 18 seems to be appropriate,” Levin said. “Promoters should not be making money off of children in terms of marketing violence as entertainment.
“Children take in pictures at a young age and don’t connect them to their own experiences,” Levin said. “They end up thinking violence is fun and exciting. Children at 8 and 9 years of age don’t put the whole picture together of why certain things are happening. It’s hard for them to comprehend what’s real and what isn’t. Was he really hurt, or wasn’t he? They focus on dramatic things they’ve seen.”
Levin said that she realizes the reality of the situation in that children are already playing violent sports like football by the age of 9 or 10, nevermind having already seen these sports. But the professor hopes there is a gradual shift in culture.
“In the best possible world, children shouldn’t be viewing that level of violence [in football, hockey or MMA] before 9 or 10,” Levin said. “At the very least, if children are exposed they should be having conversations with parents about it.”
As of Wednesday, persons under the age of 18 will be allowed to attend Saturday’s card at the Garden. Though the attempts by UNITE HERE and the City Council to block UFC’s plans were futile this time around, due in large part to the lateness of both petitions, they will likely have lasting effects.
UFC President Dana White, a Boston native, said this week about the city: “It’s a great place to go hang out with my friends and eat, but not a great place to put on fights.”
The last UFC event at TD Garden in 2010 drew a live gate of $2.8 million. Saturday’s event will be the first primetime show on FOX Sports 1, FOX’s new all-sports network designed to challenge ESPN.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS