ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A last-ditch effort to derail a mixed martial arts bill in New York State has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported from New Rochelle Monday, 17 New York Jewish leaders have made the remarkable claim that mixed martial arts is on some levels anti-Semitic.READ MORE: Passenger Killed, Driver Airlifted To Hospital In East Farmingdale Crash
The reasoning is that the biggest promoted of the sport – Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC – is owned in part by a powerful figure in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates – a U.S. ally that receives military aid, but is also hostile toward Israel.
“How do you justify not teaching the Holocaust in school?” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis. “What’s the defense for that?”
The letter-writers said minority ownership of one company is justification for banning the entire sport from the state.
“I know there are certain pragmatic relationships; there’s realpolitik,” Potasnik said. “OK, at the same time, we cannot keep silent.”
Approval of for mixed martial arts competitions in New York passed the state Senate five years in a row, but was consistently blocked in the state Assembly. There was no chance of passage until circumstances in Albany recently changed.READ MORE: Gov. Hochul Announces Plan To Address School Bus Driver Shortage
Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver blocked mixed martial arts, at what critics said was the behest of an out-of-state union having difficulties with the sports promoters in Nevada. But Silver lost much of his power after being indicted on corruption charges.
Backers of the MMA bill said the letter writers are being used as pawns.
“This is just another tactic being used by those opposed, to undermine the process,” said state Assemblyman Phil Goldfelder (D-Queens).
“I think it’s about seeing if somebody could at least show and put up an effort to block this bill any way they can,” added mixed martial arts coach Justin Garcia. “I think it’s inevitable that it’s going to be passed.”
UFC spokesman Stephen Greenberg called the anti-Semitic charge a “desperate, misinformed last-minute attack,” and said it was “offensive to all readers” including Jewish shareholders and executives.MORE NEWS: Man Killed, 11-Year-Old And 2 Others Hurt In Shooting At Bronx Barbecue
The Mixed Martial Arts bill is expected to come to a vote in a matter of weeks.