Legalization of MMA Finally Passes in New York

The long awaited legalization of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the state of New York is finally here. The New York State Assembly passed the measure on Tuesday, March 22nd by an overwhelming 113-25 vote. Governor Andrew Cuomo is all that would stand in the way of the sport’s legality and there is no indication that he will veto the bill since he added a provision for MMA in the state’s budget in January of this year. New York will now become the final state to permit the activities of the nation’s fastest growing sport.

To review, one of the major driving forces in MMA’s continuing prohibition in the Empire State was the political influence of labor unions. The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), the biggest MMA organization in the country, is owned by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The Fertitta’s other business venture, Station Casinos in Las Vegas, uses a non-union culinary staff. As retaliation for this, the New York headquartered umbrella organization (Unite Here) for the culinary union pressured the union bankrolled politicians in that state to keep MMA illegal. The official ban had been in place since 1997.

Perhaps this legalization of the country’s fastest growing sport came not as a result of any ideological shift, but a simple desire to open up a new market within the state. The tax revenue generated by an MMA event would be considerable and it would be difficult for New York politicians to pass that up. This especially becomes the case since the state plans to tax Mixed Martial Arts events at an even higher rate than boxing or wrestling matches. Add this to neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania (along with all other states) being able to host these kinds of fights while New York sits on the sidelines and you are bound to create a strong desire among residents to experience what they alone are missing out on.

But another factor may be the declining membership and power of unions in America. The percentage of American workers who are union members has been declining steadily since the mid 1950’s. New York’s holdout on MMA legalization was largely a result of the influence that unions still have in that state. But now that even New York has caved while Station Casinos’ culinary staff is still non-union, that influence has clearly declined. The lifting of the state’s MMA ban certainly is a victory for those who view the decline of union power in America as a positive development.

So while the unions have lost out, other entities will benefit. Private businesses will obtain more revenue through transactions. Government will obtain more revenue by taxing future MMA events. Fans of MMA in New York will be able to take part in the festivities. MMA fighters in the state will now be able to participate in the sport legally and safely since it will no longer be driven underground by the previous ban. In the end, the benefits of legalizing this activity in New York far outweighed the costs of making the union bosses happy. Look for New York to host at least one MMA event before the end of 2016. The Empire State has now joined the rest of the nation in finally welcoming a widely accepted sport and resisting the pressures from organized labor to keep it illegal. To the victors will go the spoils.

 

Louisiana Budget Crisis Highlights Benefits of LSU’s Resistance to Subsidies

The budget crisis in Louisiana is so bad that it apparently threatens the upcoming college football season. This is according to the state’s new Democratic governor John Bel Edwards. The current yearly budget deficit has reached $940 million. The situation is so dire that higher education in the state faces the realistic possibility of running out of money and taking college sports with it.

Even though all Louisiana state funded colleges are faced with this harsh reality, the focal point of much of the public’s scorn is directed at the possibility of no LSU football this coming season. Much of the old south is Southeastern Conference (SEC) country and college football commands more attention there than even professional sports. Thus, the emotion that comes with the threat of not having LSU football looms much larger in the minds of many Louisianans than the threat of cancellation of other school’s athletics or even the possibility of academic shutdown on campuses. In the land of the SEC, college football will grab headlines over most other issues. This is especially true when its very existence is being threatened.

Upon closer inspection of Louisiana’s state budget, one can see that a major culprit for the deficit has been corporate giveaways. Under former governor Bobby Jindal’s predecessor, money given to the six largest recipients of government subsidies totaled $200 million. But under Jindal, that amount grew to $1 billion. Combine this with the state’s 400 other handouts, plus the raiding of rainy day funds to cover shortfalls and you have a recipe for a budget disaster.

So in order to put Louisiana’s fiscal house back in order, Governor Edwards has proposed one of the largest tax increases in state history. Taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, rental cars and other items are due to be increased as a part of the governor’s proposal. But given that Edwards is facing a legislature controlled by Republicans, many of these tax increases appear unlikely. A bipartisan compromise will probably be reached combining some tax hikes with some spending cuts.

But of all the things to threaten to shut down, why did Edwards target higher education and college sports? The answer lies in an old political trick called Washington Monument Syndrome (or sometimes Mount Rushmore Syndrome). This is a phenomenon where a government facing some sort of revenue shortfall or budget crisis will cut government funds which cause the most visible pain. Once the public witnesses this pain, opinion shifts in a direction that the government desires it to shift to. In this case, the state’s governor wants to pass certain tax increases. If he doesn’t get what he wants, college football could be cancelled statewide. In the state of Louisiana, few actions would cause more pain and public outcry than the cancellation of a college football season. Thus, a public official will use this to threaten the people he supposedly serves in order to pass his desired legislation.

The peculiar thing about LSU specifically is that they are one of only seven Division One programs which don’t accept state subsidies (the others being Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue). In fact, LSU’s athletic program generated so much revenue last year that it transferred over $10 million to the school’s academic program. Clearly LSU football can survive without taxpayer money, since they do so already. Again, cancelling of the state’s biggest college football program is simply a scare tactic used to further a political agenda. After the aforementioned compromise is most assuredly reached between Edwards and the legislature, politicians from both parties will probably point to LSU’s football team taking the field in the fall as some great political achievement even though the school’s athletic department didn’t need or spend their money in the first place.

As for the rest of the state of Louisiana’s higher education system, this sad state of affairs is an unfortunate lesson in what can happen when government assumes control of an institution. The competency of that institution will be subject to the whims of those who control that government. Any budgetary failings of public officials who dole out this money will inevitably affect those that are so reliant on it. If college were independent of government, then the influx of money would not be based on an appropriation from a government but the ability to provide a service (education in this case) to the public. After all, there is no imminent crisis in Louisiana regarding the sale and purchase of food, electronics or automobiles. This is because people generally spend their own money on these things without intervention from the government. If education were treated like any of these things, then it would be independent of government failings and different educational institutions would be sinking or swimming based on their own merits. But sadly, these colleges and universities will likely not learn their lesson and continue to look for funding from the very organization that is causing their current laundry list of problems.

Conventional Perception of Leadership Driving Negative Opinions of Cam Newton

The two week lead up to the Super Bowl typically gives enough time for those in the sports media to dwell on seemingly every possible angle before the big game. Usually one or maybe a couple of stories dominate the headlines and sports talk shows. Among those big stories this year seems to be the constant asking of why such a large portion of sports fans across the country hate Carolina Panther’s Quarterback Cam Newton. There appears to be no one clear answer, though several theories persist.

Newton is frequently seen in celebratory mode after scoring touchdowns. His dance routines following scores seem to be what rubs so many people the wrong way. Celebrating in this way is thought to be arrogant and unnecessary by those who criticize him. But if we dig deeper, we see that there are many more layers to Newton’s dislike than merely attributing it to his post-TD rituals.

Unsurprisingly, race has been tossed out by some as a reason for the abundance of Newton’s disfavor. According to this theory, many people don’t like the way Newton conducts himself in celebration because of certain stereotypes that still surround blacks in America. A somewhat related claim has also been made about the urban culture (which applies to some, but not all American blacks) that Newton represents and how it is something that the rest of America has difficulty relating to. But both of these claims fail to address why there isn’t similar disdain for wide receivers and running backs who often dance and express an abundance of emotion after scoring touchdowns. After all, not only is the NFL roughly 2/3 black, but the wide receiver and running back positions are dominated by blacks to an even greater degree. Why would race and culture fuel a resentment of Newton, but not other players who are so frequently of the same race and background?

Much of the answer to that question lies in the position in which Newton has had so much success. Quarterbacks are often referred to as “the face of their team” and even more often as the team’s “leader.” Different standards are applied to leaders than those they lead. Many people prefer leaders to be more reserved emotionally. This gives the perception of a more “grounded” leader who is thought to not let his emotions get the best of him. While others may be off dancing and celebrating, the leader is imagined to be calmer and more level headed in order to deal with the added pressures that come from his job. Thus, when these people see Newton showing the kind of emotion he shows, it flies in the face of what they perceive leadership to look like.

The image of a less emotional and more stoic leader doesn’t just persist in the sports world, but in Hollywood as well. In the climactic scene of the 1995 movie Apollo 13, when it first becomes apparent that the main characters have made it safely back to earth, seemingly everyone in the movie seems to be erupting with emotion by clapping, shouting, hugging, or doing a variety of all three. However, the NASA flight Director (played by Ed Harris) doesn’t do any of these things. He shows a bit of relief as he slumps down into his chair exhausted. This character’s lack of emotion is not by accident. The film’s director, Ron Howard, knew the way he wanted the character to act at the moment that those he led were celebrating. His subdued emotion exemplifies his status as a leader that much of the viewing audience could relate to. Many other movies also portray a leader with these near emotionless characteristics that remain even in times of celebration for other characters that they supervise.

All of this leads us back to Newton and why people are so uncomfortable with the way he celebrates success. Here we have a quarterback and leader of his team showing just as much if not even more emotion than that of the players he leads. Those who don’t like this characteristic of Newton will also find it unsettling that his team has been wildly successful this year despite his unconventional leadership style. If Carolina were a bad or mediocre team, then the narrative would be that Newton could have more success if he were less concerned with dancing and celebrating and more concerned with helping his team win. Well, despite all of that dancing and celebrating, Newton’s team has won more games than any other NFL team this season.

Thanks to Newton, the public may be forced to change the way it perceives NFL quarterbacks and the dynamics of leadership that they provide. Rather than being seen as a negative or a detriment to their team, celebrating in the way that Newton does tells us that leaders can show this kind of emotion and still be considered elite in their position. Future NFL quarterbacks displaying this kind of flair may be favorably compared to Newton rather than being maligned as unserious distractions. But it’s difficult to be among the first top tier quarterbacks to exhibit this kind of unconventionality. Those similar to Newton who come after him might have an easier go of it.

The Left’s Indifference to Black Athletes Accused of Rape

Yet another campus rape hoax has apparently emerged. This time the incident involves a female student having relations with two male student athletes at the University of Findlay, a private college in Ohio. The woman filed a sexual assault claim with the university ten days after the incident. The two men involved were expelled from Findlay 24 hours later.

The problem for the university is that this female accuser appears to be a blatant and obvious liar. Other students overhearing her could tell that the sex was consensual. Not only that, but she apparently told another student that she had consented to the encounter and that she was even “bragging” about it. It appears that all relevant witnesses sided with the two men and not with the female student. But alas, Findlay University went through with the expulsion anyway.

The decision to expel these two men as a result of what looks to be a series of gross missteps has resulted in a lawsuit filed on their behalf. The lawsuit not only cites a gender bias, but a racial one as well. Both of the accused men were black student athletes at the university. The female student accusing them is white. According to the lawsuit:

“Most troubling, the conduct of the University of Findlay’s representatives was intentionally and inherently discriminatory because of Plaintiffs’ race, ethnicities, and gender. As explained in detail below, the University of Findlay has a history of discriminating against African American males in allegations of sexual assault by Caucasian females.”

The facts of this case are eerily reminiscent of the redemptive story of Brian Banks that some in the sports media picked up on in 2012. Banks was a standout high school football player in Los Angeles, CA and was offered a scholarship to play for the USC Trojans in his junior year. However, after a false rape allegation was made, his football dreams quickly evaporated. According to former ESPN writer Rick Reilly:

“(there were) no semen traces in the rape kit. No witnesses. And yet Banks’ attorney insisted he cop a plea, saying his size, age and race would mean a sure conviction of 40-plus years. He said no, no, a hundred times no and finally, reluctantly, yes. Banks got six years. He served 62 months.”

So it would seem that there often is a consistent bias when dealing with rape cases that disfavors large, powerful black men. It certainly was the case for Brian Banks to the point that his attorney told him to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit to avoid a much harsher sentence. It looks to have been the case at Findlay University as well since the two accused former students, (one a basketball player, the other a football player) are likely to be larger and stronger than most other men their age.

But where is the political left in America on this? These cases show a clear bias against certain individuals based merely on their race and body type. Given the left’s repeated claim as the champion of minority rights and vehement opposition to discrimination, these issues should be right up their ally. So why are they so curiously silent?

The answer lies in the relationship that the left has with those who make the accusations. Siding with falsely accused minorities is something they certainly aren’t opposed to. But not when it comes at the expense of championing young, victimized girls regardless of the facts. Truth is often disregarded by those looking to advance a narrative or agenda. The narrative that a “rape culture” exists on American college campuses is so adamantly asserted by the left that those falsifying accounts of rape are given platforms regardless of verification. This phenomenon was on full display as left wing magazine Rolling Stone published the now debunked article “A Rape on Campus” in late 2014. The article told the story of a female student at the University of Virginia who claimed to have been raped at a fraternity house. Rolling Stone ran with the article despite doing virtually no fact checking or anything resembling journalistic integrity. The story was later retracted and removed from Rolling Stone’s website. It appears that the magazine cared more about running with a sensationalized story that fit a preconceived narrative than actually finding the truth.

Here lies the ongoing problem with the left attempting to claim itself as a defender of any and all victimized groups around the world. It will work only as long as the alleged victimizers are also not members of groups that the left claims to champion. So as long as the oppressor of a certain group is a white Christian male, then they will gladly take up the cause of those downtrodden individuals. But if the supposed oppressor falls into a class protected by leftists, they then face a conundrum which paralyzes their response in ways that it would not if someone from a racial, ethnic or religious majority were standing on the wrong side of an issue.

So many black Americans will likely continue to think that those who lean to the left side of the dial support their interests and will stick their neck out for them when the going gets tough. But these recent events show us that not even the relentless pandering to the black community that the left so frequently does will cause them to reevaluate their assumptions on the unfair treatment of black men when it comes to rape allegations. Life can get difficult when you try to take up the cause of every group that you think is a victim.

 

The New York AG’s Baseless and Hypocritical Ban on Fantasy Football

The government of the state of New York has once again shown itself willing to prohibit peaceful activities in the name of its own warped version of a greater good. The activity supposedly in need of a statewide ban—at least this time, is online fantasy football betting. Specifically the betting that takes place on popular sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has ordered these sites to cease and desist the taking of bets from New York residents. In his statement explaining his motivation for this, the AG claimed:

“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country,” adding, “Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.” But who is actually being harmed by fantasy sports participation and what are the New York State Government’s real motivations for making it illegal?

The prime motivation cited for the need of government protection from fantasy football mega-sites is rooted in a recent scandal involving an employee at DraftKings obtaining knowledge of selected players within his company to win $350,000 at FanDuel. His advantage in this case has been compared to the illegal activity of insider trading. Responses from the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Deadspin either accuse or imply that the world of fantasy sports is “unregulated” and must be dealt with.

Even if this employee’s large pay day was due to inside information, it is still not a justification for government involvement. After the employee’s winnings were made public, the two sites claimed that they would each stop their employees from participating in each other’s fantasy sports contests. Each site then announced it would come up with a more formal policy to further govern employee behavior. This all occurred without the heavy hand of government, because those in the business of fantasy sports have a vested interest in keeping their customers coming back. If those customers feel that the game is rigged against them, then another site will emerge that regulates its employees in a way that the average fantasy sports participant feels comfortable with.

But this new attempt to better protect the integrity of their brand was apparently not good enough for Schneiderman. The Attorney General still went through with his statewide prohibition. Because he feels that fantasy sports represent contests of chance and not skill, they are therefore illegal in the state of New York. But if there is no skill involved, then what benefit could there even be to obtaining inside information?

The ultimate hypocrisy is that the New York state lottery is not only gambling, but also a complete game of chance. The odds of hitting the lottery are significantly lower than winning money in fantasy sports. Yet the lottery remains perfectly legal despite requiring no skill whatsoever. Does insider information about the lottery even exist? Would there be any point in trying to obtain it? Of course not, because there can be no strategically obtained information for games of total luck.

New York is not the only state with politicians needlessly beating the drums against online fantasy sports betting. Nevada’s Gaming Control Board issued its own cease and desist order to DraftKings and FanDuel ten days after the “scandal” broke. Two federal politicians from New Jersey; Rep. Frank Pallone and Sen. Bob Menendez, called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “ensure a fair playing field.” The fact that Nevada is home to Las Vegas gambling interests, including billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson (who has consistently crusaded against online gambling), is no doubt a motivating factor in online fantasy sports prohibition in that state. Also included are the interests of Atlantic City gambling to Pallone and Menendez. The gambling establishment doesn’t like competition and has no problem using the state to spread enough fear to stifle it.

A significant unintended consequence is that fantasy sports actually are regulated, but will now cease to be so, creating a black market as a result of banning the activity. The FTC can regulate all legal businesses in the US to prevent cases of fraud and other unlawful activities. The only way an American business can be truly unregulated is if it is operating in a black market. Making an activity people want to participate in illegal—like fantasy sports, (or drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, gambling, etc.) creates these unregulated black markets and the social problems that come with them. So as a result of the bogus complaints about an unregulated practice, a ban has now been put in place that will cause true unregulated activity.

Once again the media and powerful members of the government have come together to scare society away from something that is not worthy of their attention. The outcome of their actions create enough fear to cause the people to look to the state as the solution to a manufactured problem that they no doubt will make worse by trying to solve.

 

Worldwide Leader in Televised Competition Terrified of Political Competition

The powers that be at ESPN have removed employee Andy Katz from the new Sirius XM show entitled “The Arena.” As a result, the show has been discontinued after just one episode. The premise of The Arena was to examine the intersection between sports and politics. Sure seems like a promising theme, right?

So why was ESPN so intent on snuffing out a program so early in its existence? The answer unsurprisingly has to do with the content of The Arena’s first episode, when the first (and now only) guest was former Florida governor and current presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The topic discussed (or at least one of them) was the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins’ nickname. When Bush was asked about the possibility of the name being changed, he said:

“I don’t think [the team] should change it. But again, I don’t think politicians ought to have any say in that to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive. We had a similar kind of flap with FSU if you recall, the Seminoles, and the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided. It’s a sport for crying out loud.”

Whether you agree with Bush or not on this issue is not relevant. The point is that many sports fans and individuals around the country agree with him about the lack of offensiveness of the Redskin’s name. So it’s not exactly as if he is expressing some kind of “fringe” opinion which would scare a mainstream media outlet. He also displayed his opinion in a respectful manner which did not insult or demean any of the parties involved.

Apparently this exchange was too much to bear for the higher-ups at ESPN. According to SI.com (Sports Illustrated), “Katz was pulled off the show in an effort to minimize Presidential candidate appearances on platforms connected to ESPN, and the sensitivity of such political identification.”

A few questions persist after hearing that explanation. First of all, if ESPN was going to enforce a “no presidential candidates” rule, shouldn’t they have told Katz and the others involved in making the show? If they had, wouldn’t those involved in producing the show have stayed away from Bush and all of the other presidential candidates and selected another guest? And if ESPN wants to prevent giving presidential candidates a platform on The Arena, can’t it simply enforce that rule from now on without doing away with the show completely?

The irony here is that ESPN appears to be so scared by political controversy and opposing political viewpoints while simultaneously embracing rivalry and debate in the sports world. Rivalries are great for sports, great for ratings and thus, great for ESPN. They (and the rest of the sports media) constantly play up grudge matches, controversies and the players/fan bases behind them. The network has also created shows which feature talking heads arguing with and often yelling at one another in order to win a sports dispute. Of course, there is nothing at all wrong with this.

But if ESPN has learned to promote and profit off of this kind of environment in athletics, why can’t they embrace the same philosophy in politics? The Arena was supposed to be a non-partisan show. So they could have gotten some other politician who disagrees with Bush about the Redskins’ name in order to balance things out. Especially after DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded to Bush’s claim by saying that his support of the name was:

“extremely insulting to Native American people. The team’s name is a racial slur that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native American people and reduces proud cultures to an insulting caricature.”

But rather than having Wasserman Schultz or another like-minded politician come on and rebut Bush, ESPN would rather just cancel the show altogether. Given the PC nature of the sports media in general, the abrupt end of a show like this is unfortunately not surprising. Perhaps in the future ESPN (and other sports outlets) will realize the benefits of embracing political competition as much as athletic competition and shows like The Arena can truly flourish.

Walker’s Stadium Deal Highlighted Inconsistency of Failed Campaign

Scott Walker has now suspended his campaign for the 2016 presidency. The Wisconsin Governor saw his candidacy go from being a true contender for the nomination to having almost no support at all among likely voters. Before dropping out of the race, his campaign canceled trips to Michigan and California in order to focus more on early primary states. Many said this was a sign that Walker’s presidential bid is officially in panic mode. They were not wrong.

Like anyone running for public office that experienced plummeting popularity, there were certainly some things that the Walker campaign could have done better. His two debate performances were mostly forgettable and he struggled to articulate a number of positions on key issues. But for those who paid attention to Walker’s record as governor, a big problem was his inconsistency on the very core positions that were supposed to help his cause. The most notable of these may be the plan he unveiled to build a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks in order to keep them from leaving town.

Walker’s administration has put forward a proposal to spend $250 million dollars (with interest) of taxpayer money toward building a new arena in Milwaukee. The governor defended the plan by making the bogus claim that “Our return on investment is three to one.” This claim is widely debunked by recent economic data. Projected gains made by subsidized stadiums are almost always overstated. This is because of what economists sometimes call “the seen vs. the unseen.” Economic activity taking place at a venue like a stadium (buying tickets, paying for parking, concessions, etc.) can always be seen. But what can’t be seen are the activities at other places of business that are reduced by those wishing to avoid the excessive traffic and crowds that come with those games at the stadium.

This expensive and ill-advised deal is especially troubling considering Walker’s frequent claim to be a fiscally conservative budget hawk. His campaign website claims that:

“he has proposed bold reforms that have eliminated the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes…these profound changes have saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $2 billion.”

To have a record demonstrating these things and then to display such inconsistency and recklessness with taxpayer money is not a promising sign.

It’s been rather interesting to see members of both the left and the right come together in opposing Walker on the stadium issue. On the right, Americans for Prosperity, Reason Magazine and the Cato Institute have objected to the plan. On the left, NPR contributor Charles Peirce, Bloomberg and Think Progress have also been critical. With this kind of bipartisan opposition, Walker’s recent actions have become a frequent target.

The “average” Republican voter may still be unaware of the Walker stadium debacle. Other candidates hadn’t aggressively criticized him on the issue and it didn’t come up in either of the GOP debates. In the last debate, frontrunner Donald Trump did bring up an example of Walker’s lack of fiscal restraint as governor. But the accusation was proven to be misleading. Perhaps Trump is hesitant to criticize his rival over crony capitalist deals out of fear that it may shine a light on The Donald’s own use of eminent domain laws to pad his personal bank account.

Even though the $250 million dollar stadium deal may not be one of the major causes of Walker’s downfall, it looks to be one of several examples of his incoherent message. From flip flopping on support for ethanol subsidies to briefly backing a wall along the US-Canada border, missteps and inconsistency have been the norm. Spending the kind of money Walker wants to spend on a new stadium doesn’t appear to be the cause of his electoral collapse. It’s simply a symptom of it.

 

 

 

No Cause for Concern Over Easy Majors for Athletes

It has recently come to the attention of the media that Auburn University reversed an initial decision to eliminate the public administration major from the school’s curriculum in 2013. This reversal came as the result of resistance from Auburn’s athletic department. Apparently, the public administration major is looked down upon by much of the school’s faculty. But it’s popularity among athletes, specifically Auburn’s football team, is what looks to have kept it afloat.

So just how popular is being a public administration major at Auburn? Well, if you’re an athlete, quite popular indeed. Although public administration accounts for less than 1% of the school’s undergraduate student body, 51% of students pursuing this major were Auburn athletes according to 2013 statistics. Among this group were the university’s starting quarterback, running back, leading wide receiver and several starting defensive players. In 2014, 32% of the football team was majoring in public administration.

The reason for having a major like public administration at an elite division one athletic program like Auburn is pretty transparent. The unchallenging nature of the course material usually makes it easier for students athletes who are looking to focus more energy on their sport. According to an internal athletic department memo from 2012, “If the public administration program is eliminated, the [graduation success rate] numbers for our student-athletes will likely decline.”

Some will predictably criticize Auburn (and other similar big conference schools) for continuing to have these kinds of majors. But let’s stop and think about what harm is really being done by this. Are there any real victims in this whole ordeal?

Someone able to play football at Auburn, undoubtedly a great college football program, is clearly among the elite young football players in the country. Odds are, someone good enough to compete on this level is probably better at football than they are at anything else. So if this is the case, shouldn’t someone gifted in this way be able to focus as much energy as possible on the thing that they are best at? If choosing to major in public administration enables these elite football payers to spend more time and effort improving their football abilities, then having this major as an option should be seen as a positive rather than a blemish on Auburn’s academics.

Without the public administration option, some of the school’s football players would be forced to choose more challenging majors. This would lead to less available time for training, practice, weight lifting and all of the other things that can improve the skills of a football player. Thus, the talent of the players and the overall football program at Auburn could suffer. Considering the amount of money Auburn brings in through the success of their football team, this kind of potential decline would indeed be problematic.

Individual players on Auburn’s football team no longer able to major in something like public administration would face more significant roadblocks en route to becoming highly paid professionals. College is supposed to be an institution which prepares someone for a professional career where they can make a living. Taking elite college football players away from improving their talents so that they might become professional football players runs counter to what college is supposed to be about. Especially since the salary of a rookie professional athlete far exceeds virtually any other salary someone could obtain immediately after college.

While it’s certainly true that not all of Auburn’s players will reach the NFL, going to college in general is no guarantee of employment in a field requiring a college degree. According to a careerbuilder.com survey, half of recent college graduates are working in jobs not requiring those degrees. And since less than 1% of Auburn’s students major in public administration (as previously mentioned), it’s not as if a significant portion of undergraduates are being duped into choosing an easy major that teaches them very few skills. Students at the school more or less know what public administration is there for and know enough to avoid majoring in it.

In an ideal world, amateur athletics for all sports would take place independently from colleges and universities. Young aspiring pros would advance through levels just below the professional level which would most likely be controlled by professional teams. This would look very similar to what the minor leagues are to Major League Baseball.

But of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. The NCAA would never let something encroach on its control over athletes prior to becoming professionals. So if easy classes and sham majors are the price we pay for the ability of elite athletes to specialize in what they do best, then so be it. Not only do the athletes benefit, but the university gets to make more money and the students get to watch a more talented football team. Sounds like a win all around.

 

Labor Unions at the Heart of NY’s Dangerous and Foolish MMA Ban

This past weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) experienced one of its biggest Pay Per View events ever in UFC 189 live from Las Vegas, Nevada. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is widely considered to be the fastest growing sport in America and perhaps even the world. Thus, many different cities both inside and outside the United States have hosted MMA events. But in one state, New York, MMA remains illegal and will likely remain that way for at least one more year. The sport is legal and regulated by the proper authorities in the other 49 states.

 The inability of New York legislators to end the prohibition of MMA remained the norm once again this year after a legalization bill was not brought before the New York State Assembly for vote. The New York State Senate has passed a legalization bill each of the past six years. There was more hope for 2015 after former speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver, a major opponent of MMA legalization in the state, resigned due to an arrest on federal corruption charges back in January. But alas, there was not even a vote on the bill despite these advantages.

 It’s tempting to think that the continued political resistance to state sanctioned MMA bouts is a simple case of government nanny-stating creeping into the world of sports. After all, it was former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg who banned trans-fats, public smoking and extra-large sodas (amongst other things). So perhaps it would make sense that the elected officials in the state of New York would extend the same kind of heavy handedness that Bloomberg so regularly applied to NYC. However, the real story is far more complicated and reeks of far more corruption than do-good politicians who try to run people’s lives.

 The story of MMA’s continued illegality in the Empire State centers around two of the UFC’s owners, brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. In addition to the UFC, the Fertittas also own Station Casinos in Las Vegas. This puts them at odds with the powerful Culinary Workers Union since Station Casinos is non-union. This union’s parent organization is called Unite Here and encompasses several different union organizations throughout the country. Unite Here’s headquarters is in New York City. Thus the adherence by New York politicians to union demands is far greater when a union hub is in close proximity. Of course, if one of those demands is that businessmen who hire non-union staffs are not allowed to expand their business into your state, then those union bankrolled politicians will apparently comply.

 The Politicians who say they wish to ban MMA for safety reasons really have no leg to stand on. There has never been a life altering condition or death associated with the sport. Boxing can’t say the same, as anyone who has merely taken a glimpse of Mohammed Ali in the past 20 plus years can attest to. Football can’t say the same either, as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Mike Webster all passed away long before their time. Both football and boxing are perfectly legal in the state of New York.

 Not only are the dangers of MMA overblown, but there’s actually even more danger in not legalizing the sport. Just like alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s resulted in death, blindness, and increases in organized crime, prohibition on MMA has similar consequences. Fighting of this nature has been driven underground in New York where it is unregulated and far more dangerous. Many politicians never seem to learn the lesson of unintended consequences that come from banning something desired by certain segments of society.

 It appears the New York State Assembly is not only using dirty politics as a roadblock to prevent the expansion of a business which is legal everywhere else in the country, but their continuing prohibition of this business is actually harming those in the state who wish to engage in the prohibited activity. Combine these things with the revenue lost by New York to other states willing to hold sanctioned MMA bouts and it adds up to a very steep price to pay to keep the union bosses happy. So the politicians and the unions may have us believe that this prevented legality is somehow worth it, the reality of the costs tell us that this simply isn’t true.

 

 

 

 

The Government’s Opinion of the Confederate Flag has Nothing to do with Free Speech

In the midst of the national purging of the Confederate flag from a whole host of venues, ESPN host Keith Olbermann went to the airwaves recently in order to attempt to make a comparison. In this attempt, he cited a recent Supreme Court case in which it was ruled that the Texas government did not overstep the First Amendment in denying the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ request for specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag. Thus, it was ruled constitutional for the state of Texas to deny this group license plates with this symbol.

Olbermann then pivoted to apply this ruling to the Washington Redskins organization and their judicial effort to reverse the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s June 2014 ruling to cancel the team’s six trademark protections on grounds of the name ‘Redskins’ being “disparaging” to Native Americans. The host then reported that the judge in this case (Gerald Bruce Lee), told lawyers on both sides that “they should focus on how the Supreme Court ruling on the Confederate flag affects their case.” The audience was then informed that “the lawyers for the Native American side said, obviously, that their case was strengthened since when the Supreme Court ruled that when Texas refused to make the confederate plates because they were offensive, that did not mean that Texas was infringing on the First Amendment free speech rights of those who wanted an offensive symbol on their license plates and thus, that the United States would also not be infringing upon the First Amendment free speech rights of a company who wanted to use an offensive name for their products.” (emphasis mine)

These lawyers are making a rather dangerous assertion. License plates are issued solely by the state as a form of identification. The state is not afforded the same right to speech as individuals or groups of individuals. No individual or group of individuals should have the right to use the state to express a viewpoint. This is because the state is simply force. Nothing more, nothing less. A sports team, on the other hand, is a collection of individuals. Thus, First Amendment protections clearly apply to them regardless of their offensiveness. A sports team is not force no matter how many billions of dollars the team is worth. It cannot (by itself) tax us, arrest us, send us to prison or fine us. The state of course can and does do all of these things. Only imposition by private individuals on the state could result in confederate license pates. But only coercion by the state can prevent private individuals from expressing something that is allegedly offensive. This is why the lawyers for the Native American case are making such a dangerous claim. The First Amendment protects the right to be free from state coercion, not the right to convey your expression by way of the state.

So if a state (like Texas) refuses to grant identification with controversial symbols on it and then a government can rule that because of that refusal that First Amendment protections do not apply to private citizens who exhibit controversial symbols, then what limits are there to the free speech violations that a government could take part in? How many other controversial symbols do various states not issue on forms of identification? Probably a lot. But a lack of state issue has absolutely nothing to do with a private citizen or organization being entitled to free speech while displaying a symbol that some say is controversial. It certainly shouldn’t affect whether or not a private organization can be deprived of trademark protection as a result of a name or symbol that offends some people. A government cannot be its own standard bearer with regard to what is unoffensive enough to deserve First Amendment rights. If it ever becomes this way, our nation will start down a very slippery slope.

If government can use its own standards for what it chooses to express and not express to control the expression of its citizens, then we truly do not live in a free society. As former state judge and current Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said when discussing this issue, “who cares what the government thinks.” Government thinking about what is or isn’t offensive is subject to the whims of whoever controls that government after any given election cycle. But the freedom to speak freely should never depend on the opinions of those who rule over us.