New York State Assemblyman Bob Reilly has been fighting the bad fight for years, and rarely passing up the opportunity to hate on the sport of mixed martial arts in a public interview. Most interviewers simply ask him a question (e.g. Why, Bob?) and give him the floor to spew his vitriol without anybody there to counter his asinine arguments, beyond the interviewer gently playing devil’s advocate.
Reilly recently appeared on an episode of Forbes to give more unfounded speculation as to why MMA has no place in our society. Watching an individual in power toss out baseless arguments against anything is incredibly frustrating, and at this point I honestly wonder if he even believes half the garbage he’s saying. Rather than watch another interview with Reilly and grow exponentially more frustrated, I feel it would be more therapeutic to simply rip the imaginary legs out form under Reilly’s two main arguments against the sanctioning of MMA in New York. Let’s dig in.
ARGUMENT No. 1
Reilly says: “My overriding opposition [to MMA] is based on the fact that I believe it’s a violent sport, and violence begets violence.”
Reason says: The phrase "violence begets violence" has no place in the discussion to sanction MMA. There’s a famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
Dr. King was, of course, speaking of the need to refrain from responding to violence with violence during the Civil Rights movement, as black people fought for equality in America. The phrase has always been interpreted and used to explain why violent reprisal occurs, and in the case if Dr. King’s quote, why it shouldn’t.
Violence against a person or people inspires violence back against that specific person or people. We see examples of this today half a world away as the Arab Spring continues to churn. Violence by Middle Eastern governments against the peaceful protests of the people they govern inspire those protesters to respond in kind.
Bob Reilly is suggesting that by watching two athletes square off in a sanctioned competition, in which both consent to participate and are financially rewarded for their participation, people will somehow be brainwashed and inspired to go out and commit violent acts against other people.
The lunacy of the statement speaks for itself. If such a thing were true, then by that rationale, boxing would have the same effect, and there would be a history of violent acts in society stretching as far back as boxing has existed that could directly be linked to the sport’s viewership. Furthermore, there would be modern day examples of violence occurring throughout the country as a result of people watching mixed martial arts. No such example exists, yet Reilly chooses to carelessly march on with this argument.
There isn’t a shred of evidence to back up his claim that allowing MMA into New York will inspire violence, and no rap sheet of criminal behavior stemming from watching two individuals fight in any arena is available. Whatever sound reasoning may exist to block MMA from coming to New York, Mr. Reilly has chosen to ignore it and instead reach for something that is undoubtedly profound yet blatantly ignorant.
ARGUMENT No. 2
Reilly says: “The major (argument) my colleagues use for the legalization of MMA is that it would bring money into the state (of New York), and I reject that entirely. I think it will cost more money for the state than it will bring in. I think that’s a specious and filaceous argument, that it would bring money into the state.”
Reason says: I think that’s a specious and filaceous argument that it would cost the state more money than it would bring in. I find it ironic that Mr. Reilly uses such big words to denounce the voices of assembly members who see the big picture of revenue that would flow into New York with each MMA event held in the state, while at the same time stating clearly that he thinks it would cost the state money, thereby insinuating an entirely specious point.
While I don’t have facts and figures to display the revenue earned from cities and states visited by the UFC (and certainly from local businesses like bars and restaurants), I’d be shocked to learn that the UFC was constantly returning to locations to put on more events if it were ultimately depleting that location’s funds. I’ve yet to hear a mayor, governor, or political figure of any sort come out and denounce the UFC for coming to town and bleeding the local economy. With budget’s currently stretched thin in most states across the country, I can’t imagine the UFC would continue to be a welcome guest if they were hurting more than helping.
If the Assemblyman were so certain that it would cost the state money, surely he must have his own data to back it up. Otherwise, I’d have to say that throwing out his personal thoughts on the matter, with no evidence to back it up, while denouncing the rationale arguments of his own colleagues in the very assembly he serves, would be an insult to those same assemblymen trying to bring money back into a stagnant economy.
Bob Reilly has also used his time in interviews to liken mixed martial arts to dog fighting and prostitution (Inside MMA, September 2010). The absurdity of a statement like that says enough about the mentality of someone like Reilly, who seeks to keep the sport down.
If Michael Vick had been caught running an underground mixed martial arts league back in 2007, I wonder if the punishment or public outcry would have been anywhere near the same. Maybe if the fighters were chained up and subsequently murdered for their poor performances in the ring; otherwise, I highly doubt it.
Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s baseless arguments against sanctioning mixed martial arts in the state of New York are beyond a roll of the eyes. At a time when money is scarce and local economies across the nation could use a boost, Reilly’s venture to stop money from entering New York through legitimate means, and strike fear into those who may not know otherwise through unfounded arguments, is an insult to the constituency he represents and a slap in the face to any politician fighting to bring money into the state.
What is perhaps more painful than anything is knowing that so long as MMA isn’t sanctioned in New York, Reilly will continue to be given platforms to spew his vitriol without being held accountable for his meritless words.
The New York State Senate just recently voted overwhelmingly (42-18) in favor of a bill that would sanction mixed martial arts, and the bill now must pass one last hurdle in the State Assembly before the wall comes crumbling down. Hopefully, the voices of reason will carry the day, and Bob Reilly can fade into obscurity where he belongs.