NYS Ban on Mixed Martial Arts Could Be Unconstitutional

New York State is the last in the country to have a ban on mixed martial arts, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is going to court again to change that. UFC, mixed martial arts’ largest company, is seeking an injunction against the ban on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. It is so confident in its case that it is already planning a fight at Madison Square Garden for April 23.

Noted constitutional lawyer Barry Covert was asked to give his legal analysis of this case. The article is available at WGRZ’s website.

Fights over MMA continue

Mixed martial arts (MMA) supporters have been fighting the state of New York since the ban’s introduction in 1997. According to Channel 2, the New York State Senate has passed a bill to legalize the events for the past six years, but it has yet to be approved by the Assembly. So far, the courts have decided to keep the ban until a law is adopted to overturn it, but that hasn’t stopped supporters from speaking out. In August, UFC filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals that the ban violates the First Amendment rights of both athletes and fans and, on September 28, UFC brought a new case in federal court that claims the ban is unconstitutional. They then filed a preliminary injunction against New York which, if approved, will allow the scheduled event at Madison Square Garden to take place. The State Legislature will return to the Capitol in January, at which point the Assembly will revisit the proposed bill.

Constitutionality of the ban

WGRZ reports that New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) contends that the lawsuits brought by UFC disregard “the best interests of New Yorkers” and that the Legislature is right to uphold the bans. Mr. Covert, however, disagrees. He told Channel 2 that “MMA, mixed martial arts, for some reason is not permitted under any definition of the state statute, and they are saying that they are absolutely being discriminated against, and it’s hard to disagree with them because New York State is allowing boxing, martial arts and all these other sporting events that absolutely appear to be just as violent as mixed martial arts.” By taking legal action so far in advance, Mr. Covert says that the UFC should hear a decision from a judge well before the scheduled fight.

Athletes are looking forward to the possibility of being able to fight in New York but, until a decision is announced, tickets for the Madison Square Garden event remain unavailable.

About Barry Covert

Mr. Covert, a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.