Union opens up in fight against the UFC

If union group Unite HERE is trying to get sympathy in its long-standing dispute with the Fertitta brothers and their business, Station Casinos, they don’t seem to be succeeding. So they’ve ratcheted up the pressure.

They decided a while ago to go after the Fertittas’ other business, the UFC. They lobby against MMA regulation in New York, the lone major holdout in the United States. Their role was uncovered a while ago and went more public this year.

The latest step, among many: They’re going after UFC advertisers, beginning with Anheuser Busch. Fight Opinion has the letter. The issue they’ve chosen: “Anti-gay behavior in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.”

Some of us may see an irony in trying to get a beer company to take offense at less-than-enlightened views on sexuality, but Anheuser-Busch’s ads these days are at least a little less sexist than Miller’s.

MMA has had a few issues with gay-bashing rhetoric, sure. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Michael Bisping, both cited in the Unite HERE letter, haven’t gotten the message.

But Unite HERE also includes this clunker:

Remarkably, we have yet to find evidence that any of the UFC athletes identified in this letter have been disciplined by the UFC or its owners for this contemptible behavior.

They must not have looked very hard.

– Dana White apologized and was genuinely chagrined after the reaction from the gay community to his rant. The full story is here, and having spoken with White soon afterward, I can tell you he seemed sincere. (He still hasn’t apologized to Loretta Hunt, which is another issue.)

– White addressed Joe Rogan’s comments.

– Bisping is simply going to need more than one reminder.

None of which should suggest that the issue isn’t legit. A lot of people in the world — not just in MMA, but in society as a whole — haven’t gotten the message. And plenty of people in the MMA community are trying to get their colleagues to grow up. Here’s Michael David Smith. And Luke Thomas, who has been admirably speaking up for a while.

The attitudes won’t change overnight. And they won’t change if Anheuser-Busch suddenly decides to pull all its advertising from the UFC — which won’t happen, anyway. If the UFC completely collapsed and another MMA organization sprang up in its place, chances are pretty good that the transition would erase the progress made in fighting homophobia. White, at least, has gotten the message. He’s working on getting it to his fighters.

But speaking up for the gay community really isn’t Unite HERE’s goal. If the UFC collapsed tomorrow and a more homophobic group popped up instead, Unite HERE probably won’t be bothering its advertisers.

Unite HERE’s goal is to attack Station Casinos on multiple fronts. The union and the casino company have had a long, ugly fight.

So the questions are these:

1. Will Unite HERE’s attack on the UFC help its cause of putting pressure of Station Casinos?

2. Will Unite HERE’s attack on the UFC help the cause of stamping out homophobia in mixed martial arts?

3. If White, Rogan and UFC fighters manage to watch their language for a while, does that take the wind out of Unite HERE’s lobbying efforts?

On the first question, I plead ignorance. On the second, I have serious reservations, though the optimistic view would be that the UFC would make some public proclamation that would do some good.

But one side effect of the revved-up Unite HERE attack is that they’re more public now. Getting comment from the union in the past has always been difficult. (Trust me.) Now they’ve put a phone number and email address out in public view. I’m sending an email inviting a response to this post.

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