A collection of union activists and military veterans made a nationwide push today in support of an amendment to a defense spending bill that would put an end to the military’s sponsorship of professional sports.
The veterans and union members are delivering a petition to the Marine Corps commandant on Eighth Street Southeast this afternoon. At the same time, activists in other cities will take 5,000 similar petitions to recruiting stations in such cities as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, according to event’s organizers.
The measure on the Defense appropriations bill is dubbed the UFC amendment after the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mixed martial arts contest. The Marine Corps advertises on the UFC website. Those who have signed the petition say the UFC promotes anti-female and anti-gay messaging. UFC’s media relations department didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
“Being a leader in the service means being a role model,” said Albert Bolduc a Unite Here member from Simsbury, Conn., who is retired from the Connecticut Army National Guard. “As a recruitment aide this UFC gang fails miserably because they do not engender the values of our Marine Corps.”
In a letter to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, the Veterans Committee of Unite Here wrote, “We believe that, by aligning with the UFC, an organization that has tolerated homophobia, misogyny and hate speech, the Marine Corps is violating its stated commitment of ‘maintaining dignity and respect for one another.’ Homophobia and hatred, in any form, are not consistent with the values that make the Marines an elite fighting force.”
The union has another reason for its attack on the UFC. It’s trying to get the attention of its owners, including Lorenzo Fertitta, who they say is an anti-union casino owner in Las Vegas.
“We are campaigning to influence their behavior,” Bolduc said.
He said the Army recently dropped its sponsorship of a NASCAR stock car, and that it’s time for the Marines to do the same when it comes to the UFC.
Lory Manning, director of the women in the military project at the Women’s Research and Education Institute, is pushing for the UFC amendment, too. The retired Navy captain said that as the military faces potentially dramatic budget cuts on the horizon, it should not be using taxpayer money to endorse sports leagues.
The amendment by Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) was attached to the House version of the fiscal 2013 defense spending bill. The lawmakers say Pentagon spending on sports sponsorships, including NASCAR, bass fishing and UFC, will total more than $80 million this fiscal year.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.