May 29, 2014
-- The Columbia University School of Continuing Education’s Sports Management Program will take on a project this summer, examining the case for legalizing Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”) in the state of New York.
The MMA project, believed to be the first of its kind in a law school or sports management program setting, is timely. Last week, the New York State Senate passed a bill to legalize professional MMA for the fifth consecutive year. The legislation (S.6502/A.8775)
sponsored by Rome Republican Sen. Joe Griffo in favor of regulating and allowing MMA fighters to compete at the professional level, now awaits a vote in the Assembly. Last year, the legislation passed in the Senate, but the Assembly declined to vote on it.
New York banned professional MMA in 1997. While some critics allege that the sport is barbaric and unsafe, proponents cite enhanced regulations and safety measures since it was deemed illegal in 1997. In addition, there are potential economic benefits to the state, which had been touted by MMA proponents.
The project -- “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated” -- will be led by sports law attorney Carla Varriale of Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert and Varriale, LLP. Varriale is an adjunct professor who teaches Sports Law and Ethics in the school’s sports management program. “The students are poised to study this issue. New York enjoys a plethora of professional sports, including boxing. Why is this sport such a lightning rod and, most importantly, can the controversy be overcome so New Yorkers can get the same access to the sport as the rest of North America?” said Varriale.
“Although MMA is a controversial sport, it is a popular sport that New Yorkers have an interest in, since they will travel to other states in order to watch it or are spectators via television broadcasts. The students will examine the reasons the sport was otherwise banned, whether it should now be permitted and, if so, under what sort of regulation in order to address safety concerns. The students will also follow the ongoing litigation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that has challenged New York’s MMA ban on First Amendment and vagueness grounds, among other things. It’s a unique class and this is an opportunity to study how legislation is made (or not) and the challenges facing an emerging sport. At the conclusion of the project, they will issue a report and they will make recommendations regarding some of the safety and risk management issues.”
Columbia's part-time master's degree program in Sports Management trains professionals for advanced work in all sectors of the sports industry by providing a broad understanding of the field, while also teaching specific management skills in the areas of finance, sports personnel management, law, sports marketing, and facility or event superintendence. Based in New York City, a nexus of the sports world, students learn from an exclusive network of industry leaders.