Boston activists look to prohibit Chael Sonnen from fighting at UFC Fight Night 26 on Fox Sports 1

Boston activists are looking to prevent Chael Sonnen from fighting at next week's UFC card at TD Garden. Credit: Getty Images
Boston activists are looking to prevent Chael Sonnen from fighting at next week’s UFC card at TD Garden. Credit: Getty Images

Activists from UNITE HERE and Mass NOW (Massachusetts National Organization for Women) will voice opposition in allowing UFC fighter Chael Sonnen to fight at UFC Fight Night 26 at TD Garden in Boston.

Sonnen is scheduled to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event on the all-important card for the world’s top MMA organization. The event will be the first primetime show in the history of FOX Sports 1, the all-sports TV station debuting on Saturday, Aug. 17.

The two groups are expected to speak at a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8 in front of the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission at 11 a.m. at the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety at 1 Ashburton Place (Room 1301) in Boston.

The two groups sent Metro the following press releases Wednesday:

UNITE HERE Demands that Massachusetts Deny UFC Fighter Chael Sonnen a Fighter’s License for “UFC on Fox Sports 1” on August 17th

Boston, Mass. — On Thursday, August 8, members of UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston will call on state regulators in Massachusetts to deny a professional unarmed combat license to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Chael P. Sonnen because Mr. Sonnen has been convicted of money laundering. Mr. Sonnen is scheduled to compete in a UFC event at the TD Garden on August 17th. The event will be the inaugural live UFC event on the new Fox Sports 1 cable network.

On January 3, 2011, Mr. Sonnen was convicted of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 based on a fraudulent mortgage transaction. Mr. Sonnen entered into a plea agreement in which he plead guilty to the Information filed against him by the government.

Under the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), the State Athletic Commission has the authority to suspend a license if the holder has been arrested or convicted on a charge involving moral turpitude. On January 3, 2011, Mr. Sonnen was convicted of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Some federal courts have held that money laundering is a crime involving moral turpitude.

For a full copy of the UNITE HERE complaint, please read here: http://bit.ly/1cGKJuk

A dozen UNITE HERE activists will voice their objection to the issuance of a license to Mr. Sonnen at a public meeting Thursday of the State Athletic Commission, and will hand-deliver the complaint to Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral, who oversees the Athletic Commission. The union activists will deliver the same information to the Boston offices of Eaton Vance Management, an investment management firm that has invested in the debt of Zuffa, LLC, the Las Vegas-based parent of the UFC.

UNITE HERE expects that the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission will be discussing its complaint regarding Mr. Sonnen at an Executive Session following its public meeting Thursday.

Mass. NOW Calls on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Deny a Fighter’s License to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Chael Sonnen

BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts National Organization for Women (Mass. NOW) called on state athletic regulators to deny a professional unarmed combat license to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Chael P. Sonnen, who has a federal conviction for money laundering and has repeatedly made derogatory statements about women, Brazilians, and other minority groups. Sonnen is scheduled to compete in a UFC event at the TD Garden on August 17th.

Mass. NOW, along with several other advocacy groups, sent letters asking that Sonnen be denied a professional fighter’s license. The letters were sent to Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral and to Massachusetts State Athletic Commission chairperson LaTeisha Adams, who oversee the regulation of unarmed combat in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


“Mr. Sonnen has repeatedly made shockingly derogatory statements about women, people of color, homosexuals, immigrants, and other minorities. He has tested positive for a banned substance, made public remarks promoting criminal violence, and has been convicted of money laundering,” wrote Mass. NOW Policy and Operations Manager, Ellie Adair. “For the last 45 years, Mass. NOW has fought against sexism, racism, and domestic violence. Right now, part of that fight is ensuring that Chael Sonnen is denied a license to compete in Massachusetts.”

Under the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), the Athletic Commission has the authority to deny the license of any fighter who is “arrested or convicted on a charge involving moral turpitude” or has “conducted themselves at any time or place in a manner which is deemed by the Commission to reflect discredit to unarmed combat.”

In its letter to the Athletic Commission, Mass. NOW maintained that Sonnen’s 2011 conviction for money laundering qualifies as an act of “moral turpitude,” and his repeated derogatory statements and use of a banned substance “reflect discredit to unarmed combat.” The letter argued that given these violations of the Athletic Commission’s own regulations, Sonnen should be denied a professional unarmed combat license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In June, the New York State Assembly decided not go forward with legislation to legalize professional cage fighting events in New York State, after state legislators in New York raised concerns about UFC fighters making jokes about rape, homophobic slurs, and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women. Last month, the French Sports Ministry reconfirmed the country’s ban against cage fighting events.


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