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Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 testimony before the Nevada Athletic Commission

Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 testimony before the Nevada Athletic Commission

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Published by FightFairMMA
The following testimony by the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 before the Nevada Athletic Commission outlines exploitative business practices and coercive contracts in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). In the testimony, Culinary Union calls on the Nevada Athletic Commission to adopt and enforce a "Professional Bill of Rights for Mixed Martial Artists" to protect MMA athletes from exploitation by business promoters. The Bill of Rights was inspired by conversations that the Culinary Union has had with more than 50 MMA athletes, and their agents, across North America. Culinary Union research analyst Chris Serres points out that a Bill of Rights, as well as additional protections under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, already exist for boxers. "There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected by a bill of rights, while MMA fighters are not," Serres sad.
The following testimony by the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 before the Nevada Athletic Commission outlines exploitative business practices and coercive contracts in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). In the testimony, Culinary Union calls on the Nevada Athletic Commission to adopt and enforce a "Professional Bill of Rights for Mixed Martial Artists" to protect MMA athletes from exploitation by business promoters. The Bill of Rights was inspired by conversations that the Culinary Union has had with more than 50 MMA athletes, and their agents, across North America. Culinary Union research analyst Chris Serres points out that a Bill of Rights, as well as additional protections under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, already exist for boxers. "There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected by a bill of rights, while MMA fighters are not," Serres sad.

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Published by: FightFairMMA on Feb 22, 2012
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02/22/2012

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Presentation to the Nevada Athletic CommissionFeb. 22, 2012
Members of this Commission, Mr. Kizer, thank you for giving members of the public the opportunity tocomment before you on issues of vital importance to thousands of mixed-martial arts athletes and their fans.My name is Chris Serres and I am a research analyst with the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226. Our unionhas a long and distinguished history of fighting for better working conditions and higher standards of livingfor workers in our city.As Nevada¶s largest union, we also stand with workers who desire better working conditions and better treatment by their employers, no matter their industry or their profession.We believe the current rules that govern professional unarmed combat in the state of Nevada do not go far enough in protecting workers in the industry ± especially professional mixed martial arts fighters -- fromunfair business practices.Unfortunately, as demonstrated in a recent investigative story by ESPN, workers in the mixed martial artsindustry appear to be afraid to speak publicly and critically about employment conditions for fear of reprisal. No fighter currently under contract with a major MMA promoter was willing to speak to ESPN on therecord.
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 We have spoken to more than 50 professional MMA fighters, as well as their agents, and based on theseconversations, we would like to bring to your attention certain issues affecting fighters and suggest how theycould be addressed through regulatory changes.As the primary regulator of unarmed combat in the state of Nevada, this Commission has a public duty to protect the well-being of athletes and to prevent exploitative business practices that undermine the reputationof this sport.Under Chapter 467 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, this Commission has the power to establish minimumstandards for the licensing of promoters, managers, athletes and others. You also have the power to revoke or suspend the license of any promoter or manager who ³is guilty of an act or conduct that is detrimental to acontest or exhibition of unarmed combat.´
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We believe that some of the business practices that exist in thesport of mixed-martial arts fit that description.Members of this Commission, we would like to enter into the public record for your consideration a proposed ³Professional Bill of Rights for Mixed-Martial Artists.´ This document was inspired by numerousconversations we had with fighters and their agents across North America. It was also inspired by the³Professional Boxers¶ Bill of Rights,´ which was drafted by the Association of Boxing Commissions morethan 15 years ago to protect boxers from exploitation.
3
 
1
 
Barr, John and Gross, Josh, ³UFC fighters say low pay simply brutal,´
 ESPN.com
, Jan. 15, 2012,http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/page/UFCpay/ufc-fighters-say-low-pay-most-painful-hit-all 
2
Nevada Revised Statues (NRS) 467.110,http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-467.html#NRS467Sec110
 
3
 
http://www.abcboxing.com/documents/abcboxing_boxers_bill_of_rights.htm 
 
There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected by a bill of rights, while MMA fighters are not. Bothsports are regulated by state athletic commissions. More significantly, MMA suffers from some of the sameills that have plagued boxing over the years. These ills led to the 2000 passage of the Muhammad Ali BoxingReform Act (Ali Act), a federal law that protects boxers from exploitative business practices. The time hascome for regulators to extend similar protections to MMA fighters.It is all the more appropriate to move forward with these protections now ± just days after athletes andcelebrities across the world converged on this city to celebrate the 70
th
birthday of Muhammad Ali. One wayto build on Ali¶s remarkable legacy, as an athlete and as a lifelong champion of humanitarian causes, is towork toward protecting the dignity and well-being of athletes from the unscrupulous few who attempt toexploit them.Many of the MMA athletes who agreed to speak with us said they feel exploited and undervalued. Many believe the sport of mixed-martial arts has been hijacked by business interests that are more interested inmaximizing their own profits, and promoting their own brands, than in furthering the integrity of this sport.We will not itemize here today the full litany of concerns raised by professional mixed-martial artists, because it would simply take too long and the Commission may be familiar with many of them. In general,athletes said they struggle against the following abuses:a)
 
L
ong-term, exclusivity contracts that bind an athlete to a single promoter, in some casesindefinitely
. Some contracts contain ³automatic renewal´ provisions or a ³champion¶s clause,´which automatically extends the contract of a fighter who becomes a champion.
4
Such clauses makeit more difficult for athletes to negotiate higher pay and diminish the incentive of smaller promotersto bid for talented fighters. b)
 
L
imited control over image and likeness rights
. Some contracts with promoters require an athleteto relinquish rights to his own image and likeness ³in perpetuity,´ or forever.
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The fighter must agreeto forfeit future revenue streams from DVD sales, video games, clothing and other merchandising,even after retirement.
c)
 
L
ack of financial transparency.
Under the Ali Act, promoters are required to make extensivefinancial disclosures to state athletic commissions, including copies of all written agreements with boxers participating in a match.
6
No such requirements govern MMA under federal law or Nevadalaw. As a result, MMA fighters often have to negotiate in the dark and are unsure if they are beingcompensated fairly.
 
In 2008, two fighters who objected to signing away their image and likeness rights for a video game were cut by their promoter.
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Both fighters were later rehired.This Commission has shown leadership in the past in advancing rules that make unarmed combat safer andmore transparent. In 1998, two members of this Commission testified before a committee of the U.S. Senate
4
Swift, Adam, ³Inside the Standard Zuffa Contract,´
Sherdog 
, Oct. 31, 2007,http://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/Inside-the-Standard-Zuffa-Contract-9734 
5
Ibid.
6
Section 13, ³Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act,´http://www.ftc.gov/os/mabra/aliact.pdf 
 
7
Gilbert, Mark, ³Fitch cut as UFC wield the axe,´
he Sun
, Nov. 20, 2008,http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/1952333/Welterweight-star-Jon-Fitch-has-been-axed-by-the-UFC-after-a-row-over-image-rights.html 
 
on the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. At the time, then-commissioners Marc Ratner and Dr. James Nave testified that a federal mechanism should be put in place to prevent hidden agreements between promoters and boxers.
8
 After two boxers died in Las Vegas in 2005, this Commission was at the forefront of mandating better andmore stringent regulations for protecting the health of boxers.
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And through its collaboration with theCleveland Clinic¶s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, this Commission is currently leading efforts to comeup with new ways to prevent permanent brain injury -- not only among fighters, but also among others whomay suffer from brain trauma.Your regulatory leadership is all the more critical in the sport of mixed-martial arts. Unlike many other  professional sports, such as basketball, football and baseball, the sport of mixed-martial arts lacks a league or governing association that would establish fair business practices. In addition, MMA fighters primarilycompete as independent contractors, rather than as employees of a club or a team, which means they oftenlack the protection of federal labor and employment laws.For thousands of these athletes, state athletic commissions are among their only defenders againstexploitative business interests.We strongly urge this Commission to take a leadership role in protecting mixed-martial arts athletes andadopt the Bill of Rights we submit to you today. We also encourage this Commission, as a member of theAssociation of Boxing Commissions, to push for the adoption of these ten rights in every state where it iscurrently legal to hold professional mixed-martial arts events. Given the importance of Nevada as a globalfighting center, the opinion of this Commission will carry enormous weight in other states.We also believe the Commission should take advantage of its power to issue and revoke licenses to hold business interests accountable for any practice, including coercive contracts, that are detrimental to the sport.Finally, we strongly urge members of this Commission to reach out to the community of mixed-martialartists in this state. Visit them at their gyms. Talk to their agents and their trainers. We encourage you tolearn more about the conditions that deter current or aspiring professional MMA athletes from speaking out publicly and critically about their employment conditions.Thank you for your time.
Submissions:
 
A Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists
 
³
UFC fighters say low pay simply brutal,´
 ESPN.com
, Jan. 15, 201
8
Senate Report 105-371, June 21, 1999,http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-105srpt371/html/CRPT-105srpt371.htm 
9
Garcia, Oskar, Associated Press, ³Nevada passes rules to make boxing safer,´
SA
oday
, July 13, 2006,http://www.usatoday.com/sports/boxing/2006-07-13-rule-changes_x.htm 

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